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FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



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COVER: Company G, 2d Battalion, 9th 
Marines engages an NVA unit on 5 Decem- 
ber during the portion of Operation Ken- 
tucky conducted to prevent enemy inter- 
ference with the construction of Strong- 
point A- 5 of the barrier system south of the 
DMZ. The 5d Marine Division originally 
planned to call this protective effort Opera- 
tion Newton, but decided on 28 November 
to consider it as simply part of Kentucky. 
(Department of Defense Photo fUSMCJ 
A 189948) :.-/ ^, . -. ^ ■ -:/#^,^., 



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U.S. MARINES IN VIETNAM 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



1967 

by 
Major Gary L. Telfer, USMC 

Lieutenant Colonel Lane Rogers, USMC 



and 



V. Keith Fleming, Jr. 



y977 





HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION 

HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS 

WASHINGTON, D.C. 



1984 



PENTAGow Lmma 

jWASHJNSiOl^ K 



Other Volumes in the Marine Corps 
Vietnam Operational Histories Series 

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1954-1964, The Advisory and Combat 

Assistance Era, \911 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1965, The Landing and the Buildup , 1978 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1966, An Expanding War, 1982 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, January-June 1968, now in preparation 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam., July-December 1968, scheduled for preparation 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1969, now in preparation 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1910-1971 , now in preparation 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1971-1973, now in preparation 
U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1973-1975 , now in preparation 



Library of Congress Card No. 77-604776 
PCN 190 003090 00 



Foreword 



This is the fourth volume in a planned 10-volume operational and chronological series 
covering the U.S. Marine Corps' participation in the Vietnam War. A separate topical 
series will complement the operational histories. This volume details the change in focus 
of the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), which fought in South Vietnam's nor- 
thernmost corps area, I Corps. Ill MAF, faced with a continued threat in 1967 of North 
Vietnamese large unit entry across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Vietnams, 
turned over the Chu Lai enclave to the U.S. Army's Task Force Oregon and shifted the 
bulk of its forces — and its attention — northward. Throughout the year, the 3d Marine 
Division fought a conventional, large-unit war against the North Vietnamese Army 
(NVA) near the demilitarized zone. The 1st Marine Division, concentrated in Thua 
Thien and Quang Nam provinces, continued both offensive and pacification operations. 
Its enemy ranged from small groups of Viet Cong guerrillas in hamlets and villages up to 
formations as large as the 2d NVA Division. The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing provided air 
support to both divisions, as well as Army and allied units in I Corps. The Force Logistic 
Command, amalgamated from all Marine logistics organizations in Vietnam, served all 
major Marine commands. 

This volume, like its predecessors, concentrates on the ground war in I Corps and III 
MAF's perspective of the Vietnam War as an entity. It also covers the Marine Corps par- 
ticipation in the advisory effort, the operations of the two Special Landing Forces of the 
U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, and the services of Marines with the staff of the U.S. Military 
Assistance Command, Vietnam. There are additional chapters on supporting arms and 
logistics, and a discussion of the Marine role in Vietnam in relation to the overall 
American effort. 

The nature of the war facing III MAF during 1967 forced the authors to concentrate 
on major operations, particularly those characterized by heavy combat. The uneven 
quality of the official reports submitted by combat units also played a role in select- 
ing the materials presented in this volume. This is not meant to slight those whose com- 
bat service involved long, hot days on patrol, wearying hours of perimeter defense, and 
innumerable operations, named and un-named. These Marines also endured fights just 
as deadly as the ones against large enemy regular units. Ill MAF's combat successes in 
1967 came from the efforts of all Americans in I Corps. 

AH three authors have been historians in the History and Museums Division. Major 
Gary L. Telfer, now a retired lieutenant colonel, has a bachelor of arts degree from 
Muskingum College, Ohio. He had two tours in Vietnam, first as an advisor with a Viet- 
namese Army artillery battalion and, three years later, with the 12th Marines. Major 
Telfer began this history project and produced the initial manuscript. His replacement. 
Lieutenant Colonel Lane Rogers, now also retired, expanded the materials into a second 
draft. He is a member of the class of 1953 of the U.S. Naval Academy and was an advisor 
with the Vietnamese Marine Corps. The third author. Dr. V. Keith Fleming, Jr., is a 



former Marine officer who served as a rifle company commander in Vietnam. He 
prepared the comment edition and then incorporated the suggestions of the reviewers. 
He has bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Alabama and a 
doctoral degree in American military history from Ohio State University. 



4f*trH^o 




E. H. SIMMONS 
Brigadier General, U. S. Marine Corps, Retired 
Director of Marine Corps History and Museums 



Preface 



U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese, 1967 , like its predecessors, is 
largely based on the holdings of the Marine Corps Historical Center. These official files 
include the monthly unit command chronologies, after action reports, messages, units' 
daily journal files, the oral history collection, comment files, and previously classified 
studies prepared by members of the division. Especially useful in the latter category were 
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph F. Moody and Major Thomas E. Donnelly, "Introduction of 
North Vietnamese Regulars," and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph F. Moody, "A Higher 
Order of Warfare," parts IV and V of a then-projected single-volume history of the war. 

The authors supplemented the above sources with research in the records of the other 
Services and pertinent published primary and secondary sources. Although none of the 
information in this history is classified, some of the documentation on which it is based 
still has a classified designation. More than 250 reviewers, most of whom were par- 
ticipants in the events described in this volume, read a comment edition of the 
manuscript. Their comments, where applicable, have been incorporated into the text. A 
list of all those who commented is included in the appendices. All ranks used in the 
body of the text are those held by the individuals in 1967. 

The production of this volume, like its predecessors, has been a cooperative effort. All 
of the Vietnam historians, past and present, in the Histories Section, History and 
Museums Division, have reviewed the draft manuscript. Mrs. Joyce Bonnett, head ar- 
chivist, and her former assistant, Mrs. Linda T. Benedict, aided our access into the 
records in the Archives Section. Miss Evelyn A. Englander, head librarian, and her assis- 
tant, Mrs. Patricia E. Morgan, were very helpful in obtaining needed references. The 
Reference Section, headed by Mr. Danny J. Crawford, and earlier by Mrs. Gabrielle M. 
Santelli, made its voluminous files available and answered the authors' numerous ques- 
tions cheerfully and professionally. Mrs. Regina Strother, formerly with the Defense 
Audio-Visual Agency, but now with the History and Museums Division, graciously 
assisted in the photographic research. Mr. Benis M. Frank, the head of the Oral History 
Section, was equally helpful in making his tapes and transcripts available. 

Mr. Robert E. Struder, head of the Publications Production Section, skillfully guided 
the manuscript through the various production phases. Mr. Struder also served as the 
project officer supervising the contract with the University of Maryland's Cartographic 
Services Laboratory, which made the maps in this volume. Mrs Bonnie Kane and Ms. Lee 
Ritzman Ebinger were the cartographers, under the supervision of Mrs. Sue Gibbons 
and her successor, Ms. Vickie Taylor. The typesetting of the manuscript was done by 
Corporals Paul W. Gibson, Joseph J. Hynes, Mark J. Zigante, and Stanley W. Crowl. 
Mrs. Catherine A. Kerns contributed significantly to the typesetting effort, and provid- 
ed considerable technical expertise on typesetting procedures. Mr. William S. Hill, the 
Division's graphics specialist, completed the design and layout of the book, incor- 
porating some work completed earlier by his predecessor, Mr. Dennis W. Kirschner. 



The authors give special thanks to Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, the Director 
of Marine Corps History and Museums, whose policies guide the Vietnam series. Four 
successive Deputies for Marine Corps History — Colonel Herbert M. Hart, Colonel John 
E. Greenwood (now editor of the Marine Corps Gazette), Colonel Oliver M. Whipple, 
Jr., and Colonel John G. Miller — have shepherded this project to its completion. Mr. 
Henry I. Shaw, Jr., the Chief Historian, aided all three authors by giving us the benefit 
of his considerable experience in writing Marine Corps History, encouragement and ad- 
vice when needed, and general editorial guidance. Mr. Jack Shulimson, now the senior 
Vietnam historian, provided advice to all three authors and aided research through his 
knowledge of Vietnam-era Marine Corps records. The historians in the historical offices 
of the Army, Navy, and Air Force have freely exchanged information with the authors 
and assisted in locating documents needed to complete our research. We express our 
gratitude to all those who reviewed the comment edition and pointed out needed cor- 
rections. They also were generous in providing personal photographs, documents, and 
the insights available to participants in events. Finally, the authors are responsible for 
the contents of the text, including the opinions expressed and any errors in fact. 



GARY L. TELFER LANE ROGERS V. KEITH FLEMING, JR. 



Table of Contents 



Page 

Foreword ill 

Preface V 

Table of Contents VII 

Maps X 

PART I THE DMZ IN EARLY 1967 1 

Chapter 1 The Situation at the Start of the Year 3 

The Early Days 3 

Command Relations 4 

A Change in Strategy 6 

The Plan for the Year 6 

The Enemy Organization 7 

Tactical Considerations 8 

Chapter 2 Spring Action South of the DMZ— February- April 1967 9 

Operation Prairie I Continues 9 

Operation Prairie II 9 

Operation Prairie III 16 

Chapter 3 Combined US/ARVN Operations in the DMZ 20 

Operation Prairie IV Begins 20 

Attack on Con Thien 21 

Into the DMZ 23 

Operation Lam Son 54 25 

Operation Beau Charger 25 

Operation Hickory 26 

Operation Prairie IV Ends 30 

Chapter 4 The First Battle of Khe Sanh 31 

The Early Days 31 

Opening Moves of the Battle 35 

Reinforcing the Hill 861 Attack 39 

Attacking Hill 881S 40 

The Final Objective: Hill 881N 42 

End of the Battle 44 

Operation Crockett 46 

PART II SPRING FIGHTING IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 49 

Chapter 5 The War in Southern I Corps 51 

The Situation 51 

Operation Desoto 53 



Deckhouse /Desoto 57 

Desoto Continued 61 

Operation Union 63 

Union II 68 

Chapter 6 Task Force Oregon 75 

PART III CONTINUING ACTION ALONG THE DMZ 84 

Chapter 7 The Barrier— Another Approach 86 

Evolution of the Concept 86 

Chapter 8 Con Thien and the Summer Battles Along the DMZ 95 

Why Con Thien? 95 

Operation Buffalo 96 

PART IV FALL COMBAT, NORTH AND SOUTH 105 

Chapter 9 Continuing Operations Against the 2dNVA Division 107 

Raids and Rockets in Quang Nam 107 

Operation Cochise 109 

Operation Swift Ill 

Chapter 10 Fall Fighting in the North 125 

Operation Kingfisher 125 

Medina/ Bastion Hill/Lam Son 138 139 

Adjustments within the 3d Marine Division 142 

PART V SPECIAL EFFORTS 148 

Chapter 11 The Special Landing Force 150 

Doctrine Versus Expedient 150 

Operation Deckhouse V, 6- 1 5 January 151 

Deckhouse VI/Desoto, 16 February-3 March 153 

Beacon Hill I, 20 March-1 April 155 

Beaver Cage/Union I, 28 April-12 May 158 

Beau Charger/Belt Tight/ Hickory/ Prairie IV/Cimarron, 18 May-lOjune 159 

Day On, Stay On — SLF Operational Tempo Increases 16 1 

Bear Bite/Colgate/Choctaw/Maryland, 2-27 June 162 

Beacon Torch /Calhoun, 18june-2 July, 25 June-2 July 162 

SLF Alpha m Bear Claw /Buffalo /Hickory II, 3-l6July 163 

SLF Bravo in Beaver Track/Buffalo/Hickory II, 4-l6July 164 

Bear Chain /Fremont, 20-26 July 166 

Beacon Guide, 2 1-30 July 167 

Kangaroo Kick/Fremont, 1-21 August 167 

Beacon Gate/ Cochise, 7-27 August 168 

Belt Drive/Liberty, 27 August-5 September 169 

A Change in Scenario — The 46s are Grounded 170 

Beacon Point /Fremont /Ballistic Charge/ Shelby ville, 1-28 September 170 

Fortress Sentry /Kingfisher, 17 September- 15 October 171 

Bastion Hill/Medina/Liberty II/Fremont, 10-23 October 172 

Formation Leader/ Liberty II/Knox, 17 October-4 November 173 

Granite /Kentucky II and III, 26 October-l6 November 173 



Badger Hunt/Foster, 13-29 November 174 

Fortress Ridge, 2 1-24 December 175 

Badger Tooth, 26 December 1967-2 January 1968 176 

Ballistic Arch/Kentucky V/Osceola, 24 November-31 December 179 

Chapter 12 Pacification 182 

The Problem Defined 182 

County Fair 185 

Marine Grass-Roots-Level Participation 186 

Reporting and Evaluation 194 

PART VI SUPPORT AND CONCLUSION 197 

Chapter 13 Supporting Arms 199 

Marine Air Operations 199 

Fixed-Wing Operations 201 

Helicopter Operations 206 

Artillery 212 

Chapter 14 Logistics ^ 224 

Upgrading the Logistic System 224 

Problems with the M- 16 Rifle 229 

Navy Support 231 

Marine Corps Engineers 238 

Chapter 15 Other Marine Activities 241 

Marines with MACV 241 

The Embassy Guard 242 

The Advisors 244 

I Corps Advisors 245 

The Rung Sat Special Zone 246 

The Marine Advisory Unit 247 

Action in Binh Dinh Province 250 

Action in the South 251 

Chapter 16 The Situation at the End of the Year 255 

Operational Aspects 255 

Personnel and Logistics 257 

The Outlook for Victory 257 

Enemy Dispositions 258 

The Changed Situation 259 

NOTES 261 

APPENDICES 

A. Marine Command and Staff List, January-December 1966 . 273 

B. Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations 287 

C. Chronology of Significant Events 293 

D. Medal of Honor Citations, 1966 297 

E . List of Reviewers 313 

F. Distribution of Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific 317 

G. Distribution of Personnel, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific 319 

INDEX 325 



Maps 



Reference Map: I Corps Tactical Zone XI 

Marine Bases in Northern I CTZ, January 1967 7 

Operations Hickory, Lam Son 54, Belt Tight, and Beau Charger, 19-26 May 1967 ... 24 

Khe Sanh Combat Base and Vicinity 1967 32 

Area of Action, Operation Desoto, 27-30 January 1967 54 

Due Pho and Vicinity, Operation Desoto, January 1967 55 

Action of 21- April 1967, Operation Union 64 

The Battle of Hill 110; 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and 1st Battalion, 3d Marines; 

Operation Union, 10 May 1967 66 

Operation Union II, Nui Loc Son Basin, Action of 26-29 May 69 

Operation Union II, Nui Loc Son Basin, Action of 30 May-2june 71 

Major MAF Operations Southern ICTZ, January-June 1967 74 

Infantry Battalion Location Prior to Arrival of Task Force Oregon 76 

Infantry Battalion Realignments Resulting from Deployment of Task Force Oregon 

as of 30 April 1967 80 

The Plan for the Strong Point Obstacle System 90 

Operation Buffalo Action Near Con Thien 97 

The Fights at Dong Son (2) and Chau Lam (1), Operation Swift, 4 September 1967 . 1 12 

Major Engagements, Operation Swift, 4-15 September 1967 116 

Operations, Medina, Bastion Hill, and Lam Son 138, 11-15 October 1967 140 

Operation Badger Tooth 26-28 December 1967 177 

NVA 130mm Field Gun Threat to Marine Logistic Bases, Summer 1967 221 

Rocket Attack Da Nang Airbase, l4July 1967 223 

Saigon Area 1967 243 



Reference Map 

Corps Tactical Zone 




PARTI 
THE DMZ IN EARLY 1967 



CHAPTER 1 

The Situation at the Start of the Year 

The Early Days — Command Relations — The Plan for the Year — A Change in Strategy 
The Enemy Organization — Tactical Considerations 



The Early Days 

The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary 
Brigade (MEB) at Da Nang on 8 March 1965 reaf- 
firmed the United States' determination to assist the 
South Vietnamese government in defending itself 
against increasing Communist military pressure from 
Viet Cong (VC) forces and the North Vietnamese 
Army (NVA). Two Marine infantry battalions rein- 
forced the Marine helicopter task unit which had 
supported the Army of the Republic of Vietnam 
(ARVN) since the spring of 1962. Battalion Landing 
Team (BLT) 3/9 landed across the beach just north 
of the Da Nang Air Base from U.S. Seventh Fleet 
amphibious ships and the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines 
arrived by air from Okinawa. Additional Marine 
units, both ground and air, arrived during April and 
May, and Marine units established two more bases in 
the I Corps Tactical Zone (I CTZ) of South Vietnam 
at Chu Lai and Phu Bai. 

On 7 May 1965 the 9th MEB disbanded when the 
III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) absorbed its 
mission. First under the command of Major General 
William R. Collins and then Lieutenant General 
Lewis W. Walt, III MAF initially consisted of the 1st 
Marine Aircraft Wing, and the 3d Marine Division. 
In August, the Commanding General, III MAF, 
became senior advisor to the Vietnamese I Corps 
commanding general and, as such, assumed respon- 
sibility for the Corps advisory effort. He directed all 
U.S. ground operations in I CTZ, as well as the 
security of all U.S. bases in the Corps area. By the 
end of March 1966, III MAF's combat power in- 
creased following the arrival of the 1st Marine Divi- 
sion. 

The first large-scale encounter between III MAF 
Marines and an enemy main force unit took place in 
August 1965, when the 7th Marines successfully 
defeated the 1st VC Regiment south of Chu Lai dur- 
ing Operation Starlite. This battle was followed by 



battalion- and regimental-size combat operations 
against VC and NVA units throughout I CTZ. In ad- 
dition, the Special Landing Force (SLF) of the 
Seventh Fleet conducted amphibious operations 
against enemy forces in I CTZ and other areas of 
South Vietnam. 

Behmd the shield provided by these operations, 
smaller Marine units conducted patrols, ambushes, 
and sweeps to destroy local Communist forces and to 
secure the Vietnamese countryside. Once the 
Marines established security, they initiated civic ac- 
tion programs to aid the Vietnamese government's 
Revolutionary Development Program. By mid- 1966, 
these tactics were forcing the guerrillas out of tradi- 
tional strongholds, denying them sources of supply 
and manpower, and most importantly, seriously 
eroding the enemy's hold over the people. 

In July the Communists reacted to III MAF's ex- 
panding control over the heavily populated, rice-rich 
coastal areas by thrusting the North Vietnamese 
524B Division across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) 
into the comparatively unpopulated province of 
Quang Tri in northern 1 CTZ. Although the 
Marines' Operation Hastings soundly defeated this 
invasion attempt, the enemy tried again in 
September, this time with elements of two divisions. 
Again the Marines repulsed the invaders by conduc- 
ting Operation Prairie, an effort that continued 
through the end of the year. 

While both of the major NVA efforts suffered 
defeat as did all others throughout I CTZ, the Com- 
munists did succeed in relieving some of the pressure 
on the hard-pressed guerrilla forces in the coastal 
areas to the south. All signs indicated that most of 
the Communist forces had withdrawn across the 
DMZ, but Marine troop dispositions remained 
oriented northward in the face of the enemy's ap- 
parent willingness to invade this northern area. 

As 1966 ended. III MAF's Marines found 
themselves fighting essentially two separate but in- 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



terrelated "wars." The 3d Marine Division conducted 
basically a conventional war along the DMZ against 
regular NVA formations. At the same time, the 1st 
Marine Division continued its combination of large 
unit and counterguerrilla operations south of the 
Hai Van Pass. 

Command Relations 

As the commander of III MAF, General Walt 
operated under a complicated web of command rela- 
tions that put him virtually under two masters. 
Operational control of all United States forces in 
South Vietnam rested with General William C. 
Westmoreland, whose Military Assistance Com- 
mand, Vietnam (MACV), was a unified command 
under Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, the Commander 
in Chief, Pacific Command (CinCPac). On the other 
hand. Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, who 
headed Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (FMFPac), retain- 
ed command of III MAF in the areas of administra- 
tion and logistics. Further, the air war in most of 
North Vietnam, in which some III MAF aircraft par- 
ticipated, remained under the personal control of 
Admiral Sharp. Finally, General Walt, as the senior 
American officer in I Corps, served as the senior ad- 
visor to the South Vietnamese forces in the corps 
area. His burden would have been heavier had he 



not relinquished in I966 his responsibilities as Naval 
Component Commander for all American naval 
forces in Vietnam. 

At the beginning of 1967, the 18 infantry bat- 
talions of III MAF occupied bases throughout the I 
CTZ. I Corps, the name commonly given to I CTZ, 
which consisted of the five northernmost provinces 
of South Vietnam, stretched 225 miles from the 
DMZ in the north to the northern border of II CTZ 
in the south. Twenty-one fixed-wing and helicopter 
squadrons of the 1st MAW supported the allied 
ground forces. These units and the numerous sup- 
porting organizations gave General Walt a total of 
more than 70,000 troops in I CTZ. 

The enemy's two major thrusts across the DMZ 
during the summer and fall of 1966 resulted in the 
shifting of some 10,000 Marines north to meet these 
threats. The prolonged commitment of substantial 
Marine forces in the north forced a realignment of 
operational commands within III MAF. On 10 Oc- 
tober 1966 Major General Wood B. Kyle of the 3d 
Marine Division assumed control of all U.S. forces 
committed to Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces. 
Brigadier General Lowell E. English established a 
forward command post at Dong Ha, in Quang Tri 
Province. At the same time, the main 3d Division 
command post moved from Da Nang to Phu Bai, 



Senior Marine commanders pose at Da Nang with MajGen Bruno A. Hochmuth upon 
his arrival to assume command of 3d Marine Division. They are, from left, MajGen 
Louis B. Robertshaw (1st MAW), MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr. (1st MarDiv), LtGen 
Louis W. Walt (III MAF), Gen Hochmuth, and MajGen Wood B. Kyle (id MarDiv). 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 19456 




THE SITUATION AT THE START OF THE YEAR 

north of the Hai Van Mountains which separate the 
two northern provinces from the rest of I CTZ. At 
the turn of the year, III MAF had committed 7 of its 
18 battalions in this northern area. 

With the 3d Division's move, the 1st Marine Divi- 
sion, commanded by Major General Herman Nicker- 
son, Jr., shifted its headquarters north from Chu Lai 
to Da Nang, but General Nickerson left Brigadier 
General William A. Stiles' Task Force X-Ray, a 
brigade-size force of four battalions, at Chu Lai. The 
X-Ray force stretched between two provinces; two 
battalions operated in Quang Tin Province and two 
in Quang Ngai Province. Additionally, three bat- 
talions of Korean Marines, commanded by Brigadier 
General Yun Sang Kim, were in Quang Ngai Pro- 
vince. The command relationship with the Korean 
Marines was one of cooperation and coordination. 

Because of the fluid, nonlinear type of warfare 
peculiar to the Vietnam conflict, the individual in- 
fantry battalion became the key maneuver element. 
Under the system of operational control, or "opcon," 
a battalion might operate under a task force head- 
quarters, or even as part of a regiment other than its 
parent unit. For example a battalion of the 7th 
Marines might be attached to the 4th Marines while 
a battalion of the 4th Marines was a part of another 
command. This command situation became further 
confused in August of 1966 when Fleet Marine 
Force, Pacific (FMFPac) reestablished the intra- 
theater unit rotation program between Marine bat- 
talions in Vietnam and Regimental Landing Team 
26 (RLT-26) located on Okinawa.* 



The Special Landing Force (SLF) of the Seventh 
Fleet complemented the strength of III MAF and all 
allied forces in Vietnam. Consisting of a SLF head- 
quarters, a Marine battalion landing team, and a 
Marine helicopter squadron, the SLF operated from 
ships of the Seventh Fleet Amphibious Ready Group 
(ARG). The SLF could land either as an independent 
force or in conjunction with other units withdrawn 
from combat and temporarily embarked on other 
amphibious ships. 




Dcpanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A369912 

BGen William A. Stiles (right) of Task Force X-Ray 
greets LtGen Victor H. Krulak at Chu Lai on 9 March 
during one of the latter's frequent visits to South 
Vietnam. Krulak, as commander of FMFPac, had ad- 
ministrative control over Marine units in III MAF. 




*RLT-26 was an element of the 5th Marine Division which ac- 
tivated at Camp Pendleton, California, on 1 June 1966. The rota- 
tion system permitted units to withdraw from South Vietnam and 
go to Okinawa for a 1- or 2-month refitting and retraining cycle. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 18902 7 

BGen Yun Sang Kim commanded the 2d Republic 
of Korea Marine Brigade in Quang Ngai Province. 
The Korean Marines were independent of III MAF 
but both Marine commands cooperated and coor- 
dinated their efforts against the common enemy. 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Depaitment of Defense Photo (USMC) A18901 1 

LtGen Hoang Xuam Lam, as the South Vietnamese 
com^m^ander of I Corps, had administrative and tac- 
tical control of the country's five northern provinces. 



To support the ground elements. Major General 
Louis B. Robertshaw's 1st MAW deployed to five 
principal airfields. Wing headquarters was at Da 
Nang, fixed-wing squadrons were at Da Nang and 
Chu Lai, and helicopter squadrons were at Phu Bai, 
Marble Mountain east of Da Nang, and Ky Ha near 
Chu Lai. Additional helicopter detachments were at 
Dong Ha and Khe Sanh. 

The ARVN I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant 
General Hoang Xuan Lam, shared its tactical zone of 
action with III MAF. At the beginning of 1967, this 
ARVN force consisted of the 1st and 2d Army Divi- 
sions, a Ranger group, and three temporarily assign- 
ed battalions of Vietnamese Marines, a total of 34 in- 
fantry battalions. Regional and Popular Forces, add- 
ed to the ARVN regulars, brought the South Viet- 
namese troop total to 77,000 in the five provinces of 
I CTZ.* 



*Regional Forces (RF) companies recruited their personnel 
within their respective provinces, to be used within the boun- 
daries of the province, while Popular Forces (PF) platoons obtain- 
ed their men locally for employment only as security forces at their 
home villages or hamlets. 



The posture of the regular ARVN forces at the 
start of the year was as follows: 

I Corps headquarters was at Da Nang. 

The 1st Division headquarters was in the city of Hue. Its 
area of operation was the two northern provinces, Quang 
Tri and Thua Thien. 

The 2d Division's headquarters was in Quang Ngai City. 
Its tactical area included the two southern provinces of 
Quang Tin and Quang Ngai. 

The 51st Regiment, an independent unit located in the 
central province of Quang Nam, had the mission of 
pacification security. 

A Ranger Group of three battalions was the corps reserve 
and moved throughout the I Corps area. 

Although III MAF and ARVN I Corps were co- 
equal commands, their respective commanders 
recognized the need for close operational coordina- 
tion in an agreement which stipulated that, while 
neither force would serve under the control of the 
other, elements of either force could be temporarily 
placed under the tactical direction of the other for 
specific operations. 



The Plan for the Year 

The objectives assigned these two commands by 
the Vietnamese Joint General Staff and MACV in 
the Combined Campaign Plan for 1967 were 
threefold: 

To counter rapidly any threat of invasion across the I 
Corps borders; 

To destroy Viet Cong /North Vietnamese Army units at- 
tempting to disrupt the government's expanding control 
over the populated areas; and. 

To ensure the security of the base areas and lines of com- 
munication that were enabling the government to expand 
its control. 

A Change in Strategy 

The major change in strategy from 1966, as 
outlined in the 1967 Combined Campaign Plan, was 
the assignment of the Vietnamese armed forces to 
the primary role of pacification. To free the South 
Vietnamese Army units for pacification, American 
forces assumed the tactical tasks hitherto pursued by 
the South Vietnamese, at the same time carrying the 
bulk of the offensive effort against the Viet Cong 
and North Vietnamese. 

The American focus on the enemy's forces, 
however, was not to be at the expense of U.S. 



THE SITUATION AT THE START OF THE YEAR 




pacification efforts. General Westmoreland, ad- 
dressing a joint session of Congress in April 1967 
said, "The only strategy which can defeat such an 
organization is one of unrelenting but dis- 
criminating military, political, and psychological 
pressure on his whole structure — at all levels. "• 

Ironically, just when allied strategy placed increas- 
ed emphasis on pacification, the Marines found 
themselves hard-pressed to pursue their own 
pacification program, initiated as early as 1965. 
Spread throughout the five provinces, III MAF forces 
simultaneously faced large-scale attacks by NVA and 
VC units throughout I Corps. There was a substan- 
tial increase in the tempo of guerrilla warfare, as well 
as the threat of a major invasion in the DMZ area by 
an enemy force of possibly three divisions. At the 
same time. III MAFs mission still included the 
defense of the three large base areas which contained 
the five principal I CTZ airfields. 

The 3d Marine Division's area, along the DMZ, 
caused the greatest Marine concern. Ill MAF head- 
quarters expected the enemy to exploit his shorter 
supply lines. U.S. policy, well known in North Viet- 
nam, prohibited the pursuit of Communists into the 



DMZ. Strong enemy pressure south of the DMZ 
possibly could gain a prestige victory, perhaps even 
the conquest of the two northern provinces, Quang 
Tri and Thua Thien. Such pressure would also divert 
the Marines from the pacification program which 
was beginning to fragment the guerrilla infrastruc- 
ture further south. 

The Enemy Organization 

The Marines of III MAF faced a hierarchy of 
enemy units ranging from local, part-time guerrillas 
to conventional North Vietnamese Army divisions. 
At each level, an appropriate political headquarters 
controlled various subordinate units' operations. The 
village Communist Party chapters supervised their 
own squads of guerrillas. Viet Cong local force com- 
panies and battalions came under the Party commit- 
tees of the province or district. Main force Viet Cong 
or North Vietnamese units received their orders from 
the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN) or 
other major headquarters which, theoretically, were 
subordinate to COSVN. In practice, however, these 
headquarters usually took their orders directly from 
Hanoi. 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



V 



Military Region 5 (MR-3) , commanded by a North 
Vietnamese general officer, controlled enemy units 
in the northern part of South Vietnam. Two sub- 
regional headquarters shared the command respon- 
sibilities for this large area. The B-3 Front command- 
ed Communist units in Darlac, Kontum, and Pleiku 
provinces. South of the DMZ, the important Quang 
Tri and Thua Thien provinces operated under the 
Tri-Thien-Hue Military Region, which, for all prac- 
tical purposes, was subordinate to North Vietnam's 
Military Region 4. 

MR-3 commanded two infantry divisions that 
threatened the Marines in southern I Corps. The 2d 
NVA Division, also known as the 620th, and com- 
posed of two NVA regiments and the 1st Viet Cong 
Regiment, operated in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin 
provinces. The 3d NVA Division, also made up of 
two NVA and one VC regiments, worked further to 
the south in Binh Dinh, Quang Ngai, and Kontum 
provinces. 

North of the DMZ were four NVA divisions, the 
504th, the 520th, the 524B, and the 525C, all under 
the command of North Vietnam's Military Region 4. 
The 524B suffered heavy casualties in combat with 
the 3d Marine Division in July and August 1966 and 
withdrew back across the DMZ to refit. The 525 C 
served as the strategic reserve for MR-4. 

Tactical Considerations 

As 1967 began. III MAF could not attack the NVA 
divisions in and north of the DMZ; American policy 



prohibited such action. Many Marines disagreed 
with the policy, including the commander of the 9th 
Marine Amphibious Brigade on Okinawa, Brigadier 
General Louis Metzger, who later became the assis- 
tant commander of the 3d Division, General Metz- 
ger recently commented: 

It has long been my belief that the most significant 
aspect of operations along the DMZ was the publicly stated 
United States policy that U.S. forces would not enter 
North Vietnam. This allowed the enemy to deploy his 
forces across the DMZ at the time and place of his choos- 
ing, and to withdraw to a sanctuary when it suited his con- 
venience; to utilize his artillery against U.S. positions and 
bases while at the same time denying the Marines the most 
effective means of destroying the enemy weapons, i.e., to 
overrun them; [and] to free his infantry elements from 
guarding his artillery so that they could be employed 
against U.S. forces and positions south of the DMZ.' 

In response to the enemy challenge in the DMZ 
area, MACV began working on two sets of con- 
tingency plans in the latter part of 1966. First, if 
necessary, General Westmoreland would shift U.S. 
Army units north to reinforce III MAF. In addition, 
he planned, at the urging of the Secretary of 
Defense, to build an elaborate anti-infiltration bar- 
rier system south of- the DMZ to seal off the area 
from North Vietnamese incursions. Both actions 
would have a profound effect upon III MAF's opera- 
tions in 1967 as it struggled to fight both a 
counterinsurgency war against the VC infrastructure 
and a conventional war against regular NVA infantry 
divisions. 



Some principal figures in the war in I Corps discuss the situation on 5 May 1967. Those 
present include, from left, an unidentified Marine colonel; BGenJohn R. Chaisson, the 
senior Marine on the MACV staff Col Archelaus L. Hamblen, USA, who commanded 
the Army Advisory I Corps Headquarters; Gen William C. Westmoreland, USA, the 
MACV commander; BGen Ngo Quang Truong, commander of the 1st ARVN Division; 
MajGen Hoang Xuan Lam, the I Corps commander; LtGen Lewis W. Walt, the III 
MAF commander; MajGen Bruno A. Hochmuth of the 5 d Marine Division; and an 
unidentified Vietnamese colonel wearing the shoulder patch of the 1st ARVN Division. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC)801029 






jlplj 



K 



\ 



CHAPTER 2 



Spring Action South of the DMZ— February- April 1967 

operation Prairie I Continues — Operation Prairie 11— Operation Prairie III 



Operation Prairie I Continues 

As 1967 began, the 3d Marine Division was 
fighting two wars: a conventional one along the 
DMZ, where division confronted division, and a 
counterguerrilla war in the rest of Quang Tri and 
Thua Thien provinces. Although committed to both 
campaigns, the situation forced the division to give 
priority to the DMZ. 

During January, the enemy avoided major ground 
contact with ARVN and Marine units in the DMZ 
area, but the NVA did maintain energetic screening 
and reconnaissance efforts south of the DMZ. Mortar 
and rocket attacks on friendly positions increased 
sharply, particularly during the period 8-28 January, 
and there was a noticeable increase in local and main 
force guerrilla activity throughout the month. 

In January Marine units were still conducting 
Operation Prairie along the DMZ. Three battalions 
of Colonel John P. Lanigan's 3d Marines and the 3d 
Battalion, 4th Marines were operating from combat 
bases along Highway 9-* The largest of the combat 
bases, the nerve center for the entire area, was at 
Dong Ha, the command post (CP) of the 3d Marine 
Division (Forward), the controlling headquarters for 
the operation. 

The intermediate position at Cam Lo was seven 
miles west. Four miles further west. Camp J. J. Car- 
roll was occupied by artillery units of the 12th 
Marines, reinforced by U.S. Army 175mm self- 
propelled guns. An additional artillery position, the 
Rockpile, was near the base of a jagged mountain six 
miles west of Camp Carroll. The last and most 
westerly of the combat bases was Khe Sanh, only a 



*Route 9 was a two-lane, east-west road which ran from the 
Laotian border to the city of Dong Ha. Only the eastern portion of 
the highway was paved in 1967. 



few miles from the Laotian border. In addition to 
these major positions along Highway 9, Marines 
were establishing two strongpoints just south of the 
DMZ at Con Thien and Gio Linh. 

One feature of Operation Prairie was the provision 
of a specific "package" of aircraft for support of the 
3d Marine Division. In this manner the wing in- 
creased its efficiency and decreased response time for 
missions within the DMZ region. The "package" 
contained a variety of helicopters, such as UH-lEs, 
CH-46s, CH-37S, and fixed-wing observation air- 
craft. A total of 40 helicopters and 8 0-1 observation 
aircraft supported the division daily. Marine air sup- 
port radars (TPQ-10) provided the capability of con- 
ducting radar-controlled bombing missions during 
bad weather and at night. 

Operation Prairie I ended on 31 January. At its 
height the operation involved six Marine infantry 
battalions. It accounted for the largest number of 
enemy casualties in a single Marine operation to that 
date: 1,397 killed and 27 captured. Marine casualties 
for the same period were 239 killed and 1,214 
wounded. 

Operation Prairie II 

The mission assigned to the Marines for Operation 
Prairie II was essentially the same as that for Prairie I: 
to conduct operations in conjunction with ARVN 
forces, to seek out and destroy enemy forces, and to 
defend the area against attack. To accomplish this, 
Brigadier General Michael P. Ryan, assigned as 
Commanding General, 3d Marine Division (For- 
ward) and Assistant Division Commander, 3d 
Marine Division, since February 1967, controlled a 
force of three infantry battalions, two reconnaissance 
companies, and supporting units. 

The concept of operations during Operation 
Prairie II called for patrols and sweeps by units of 
various sizes, including infantry battalions. Normal- 
ly, 3d Marine Division (Forward) kept one infantry 



10 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



battalion at a time involved in mobile operations 
while the remainder of its units defended the com- 
bat bases. Meeting the latter responsibility required 
the frequent shifting of rifle companies and their 
operational control. Rifle companies, as a result, 
often found themselves under the operational con- 
trol of other battalions or even directly under the 
commander of the 3d Marines. 

To expand artillery coverage, the 12th Marines 
shifted some units. The February artillery distribu- 
tion was: 

Khe Sanh: nvo 4.2-inch mortars, two 133mm, and six 
103mm howitzers 

Rockpile: two 175mm guns, two 135mm guns, six 
105mm howitzers 

Ba Long: six 105mm howitzers 

Ca Lu: six 105mm howitzers 

Camp Carroll: six 175mm guns, four 155mm, and six 
103mm howitzers 

Cam Lo: two 155mm howitzers 

Cua Viet: six 105mm howitzers (LVTH-6) 

Gio Linh: four 175mm guns and six 105mm howitzers 

The 12th Marines' firing fans covered almost all of 
Quang Tri Province, and stretched well north of the 
DMZ and several miles into Laos. 

Except for mortar attacks, enemy activity during 
the first week of Operation Prairie II was confined to 
reconnaissance and screening actions, similar to ac- 
tivity during the last two months of Prairie I. With 
the bombing halt during the Tet Nguyen Dan truce 
period, 0700 8 February - 0700 12 February, enemy 
movement dramatically increased, both north and 
south of the Ben Hai River.* Of special significance 
was the activity immediately north of the DMZ. 
Aerial observation and photographic readouts 
revealed heavy truck and boat traffic throughout the 
area. There was little doubt that the NVA had taken 
advantage of the truce to accomplish resupply and 
personnel replacement. 

As a result of the detection of a large concentra- 
tion of enemy troops and material north of the Ben 
Hai River, the Marines on 25 February asked for and 
received permission to fire into and north of the 
DMZ against purely military targets.** The North 



*Tet Nguyen Dan, or festival of the lunar new year, usually 
called "Tet," is the most important holiday of the Vietnamese 
year. 

**The code name for these artillery attacks against targets in 
and north of the DMZ was Operation Highrise. 



Vietnamese could no longer consider the DMZ area 
as a safe haven; staging and support areas and ar- 
tillery positions now could be interdicted on a 
24-hour basis. 

The Communists reacted quickly to the sudden 
vulnerability of their previously safe positions. On 
the 27th of February, heavy enemy mortar, rocket, 
and artillery fire struck Con Thien and Gio Linh. 
The composite artillery battalion at Gio Linh bore 
the brunt of these attacks; on the 28th more than 
400 rounds landed on the battalion's position in a 
17-minute period. 

The morning of the 27th, the same day the NVA 
began the artillery attacks, a Marine reconnaissance 
team 5,000 meters northwest of Cam Lo attempted 
to ambush what appeared to be only two enemy 
soldiers. The team actually engaged an enemy com- 
pany which proved to be the lead element of the 
812th Regiment, 3 24B Division. By 1045, the recon- 
naissance team reported that it was surrounded by at 
least 100 North Vietnamese. The closest friendly 
force was Captain Alan H. Hartney's Company L, 3d 
Battalion, 4th Marines which, minus one rifle pla- 
toon but reinforced with a platoon of tanks, was 
patrolling north of Cam Lo. Colonel Lanigan im- 
mediately ordered Captain Hartney's force to go to 
the reconnaissance team's relief. Captain Hartney 
reported slow progress; brush 4-12 feet high blocked 
his route. 

With the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines already in- 
volved in an operation near the Rockpile, Colonel 
Lanigan had few reserve forces. He turned to Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Victor Ohanesian's 2d Battalion, 3d 
Marines, located at Camp Carroll. Most of this bat- 
talion was already on board ships prior to sailing for 
Okinawa after being relieved by the 3d Battalion, 
9th Marines. Now, however. Company G, the only 
intact company still ashore, would have to go to the 
aid of the endangered reconnaissance team. 

Ironically, only a few hours previously the com- 
manding officer of Company G, Captain Carl E. 
Bockewitz, had been assured by Major Robert F. 
Sheridan, the battalion S-3 officer, that there were 
no plans to send the company on an operation. The 
latter officer recalled: 

The morning before his unit was committed . . . Cap- 
tain Bockewitz, who was on an extension of his tour, came 
to see me in the S-3 bunker and asked if there was any 
chance we would be going north of the Cam Lo River. As 
over half of our battalion was already on ships ready to go 



SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE DMZ- FEBRUARY-APRIL 1967 



11 



to Okinawa and our in-place relief was almost completed, I 
told him there was no way we were gomg north. Only 
Company G, Company F (-), and a token command group 
were left in country. Captain Bockewitz was visibly reliev- 
ed as he stated, "That's good. Last night I had a dream that 
if I went north of the Cam Lo I would die."' 

Despite his forebodings, Captain Bockewitz led 
his company from Camp Carroll and began to move 
overland to link up with the reconnaissance team. 
Bockewitz, as had Captain Hartney, also found 
tough going and did not reach the reconnaissance 
team until 2342 that night. Captain Bockewitz 
established a defensive position and stayed there for 
the night. 

About the same time that Company G was leaving 
Camp Carroll, Captain Hartney's company, while 
trying to cross a stream , came under fire from a large 
enemy force. After a heavy firefight in which the 
tanks played a decisive role, the company was able to 
break contact and began to move toward the recon- 

A Marine of Company L, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines 

helps a casualty to a medevac helicopter during 

Operation Prairie's heavy fighting on 28 February. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188435 




naissance team. The tanks now proved to be a han- 
dicap; one of them threw a track. Company G could 
not leave it. Captain Hartney reported his dilemma 
and was ordered to establish a night position and 
evacuate his wounded. 

To exploit the two enemy contacts, Colonel 
Lanigan decided to commit the remaining available 
elements of Lieutenant Colonel Ohanesian's 2d Bat- 
talion, 3d Marines, which consisted of a small com- 
mand group and part of Company F. On the morn- 
ing of the 28th, Lieutenant Colonel Ohanesian, who 
had operational control of all units in this action, 
planned to move his group overland to link up with 
Company G. Then the united force was to sweep 
east to Cam Lo. Company L was to act as a blocking 
force and then move back to its original position at 
Cam Lo after linkup. That was the plan; the North 
Vietnamese had other ideas. 

At 0630 a vicious mortar and infantry attack 
stunned Company L. More than 150 82mm mortar 
rounds hit the company's position and NVA forces 
struck from three sides with heavy automatic 
weapons, small arms, and antitank (RPG) fire.* 
RPG rounds hit two tanks; one caught fire, but both 
tanks contmued to support the company with their 
turret-mounted .50-caliber machine guns. By 0900 
the Marines had repulsed three enemy attacks. Dur- 
ing the attack. Captain Hartney and his artillery 
observer had called in artillery fire to within 30 
meters of the company position. 

Because of this heavy attack. Colonel Lanigan 
ordered Ohanesian to link up with Company L in- 
stead of Company G as originally planned. Lieute- 
nant Colonel Ohanesian's small force left Camp Car- 
roll by truck, disembarked at Cam Lo, and forded 
the river. By 1030, it had reached Company L, guid- 
ed at the end by the sound of enemy mortar explo- 
sions. Captain Hartney's Company L had four dead 
and 34 wounded. 

Major Sheridan remembered that, upon arrival, 
the force "... attacked and secured the high ground 
in the area, encountering large numbers of well- 
equipped NVA troops. In my year in Vietnam, I had 
never seen this number of NVA troops in the open. 



*The Soviet RPG is a 40mm recoillcss, antitank grenade laun- 
cher, in many respects similar to the German World War II 
Panzerfaust. The later model RPG-7 can penetrate 94 inches of 
armor. 



12 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



After securing the high ground, a [hehcopter lan- 
ding zone] was established to evacuate the dead and 
wounded. . . ."^ 

At the same time that the regiment ordered 
Lieutenant Colonel Ohanesian's force to Company 
L's relief, Company G and the reconnaissance team 
received orders to move north to Hill 124 to establish 
blocking positions.* At approximately 1035 on the 
28th, as Company G began moving up the hill, it 
came under fire from well-concealed positions on 
both flanks. The fighting was heavy, casualties 
mounted on both sides. Among the Marine dead 
was Company G's commander. Captain Bockewitz. 

Second Lieutenant Richard C. Mellon, Jr., the 
company executive officer, assumed command while 
the heavy fighting continued. Company G was not 
able to recover its dead until late that afternoon. 
When the fight ended the Marines had suffered 7 
more killed and 18 wounded. 

To relieve the pressure on Company G, Colonel 
Lanigan decided to place another company under 
the operational control of Lieutenant Colonel 
Ohanesian and to commit it north of Hill 124. He 
designated Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines 
as the unit to move by helicopter to Hill 162 im- 
mediately north of Company G's position. Company 
M completed the lift by 1430 and began to move 
south toward Company G. Company M encountered 
only light contact during the move. 

By early afternoon, the remaining platoon of 
Company L and a section of tanks reinforced Lieute- 
nant Colonel Ohanesian's position. At 1430, Ohane- 
sian's command group and Company F began to 
move toward Company G, leaving Company L and 
the serviceable tanks to guard the disabled tanks. 
First Lieutenant Richard D. Koehler, Jr.'s Company 
F led, followed by the command group. Major 
Sheridan later wrote: 

We were ordered to proceed . . . knowing full well we 
were walking into a hornet's nest. Based on the number of 
enemy forces we had already encountered and the vast 
amounts of equipment, new weapons, and ammunition, 
we knew we were outmanned and outgunned. . . . We left 
the perimeter . . . and within 200 yards we came upon a 
very large radio complex. The trail was narrow and we 
could not disperse our troops. One could almost smell the 
enemy forces.' 




Marine Corps Historical Collection 
A Marine of the 5d Platoon, Company M, 3d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines throws a hand grenade toward 
North Vietnamese positions in close fighting on 1 
March during Operation Prairie II north of Cam Lo. 

As the last man left Company L's original posi- 
tion, the lead elements of the column came under 
automatic weapons and mortar fire. The Marines 
had stepped into an ambush. Company F's lead 
elements took cover from the growing volume of fire 
from the front and both flanks; enemy mortar fire 
walked down the length of the column. Heavy brush 
hid the enemy and the Marines could not establish 
fire superiority. At 1510, Lieutenant Colonel 
Ohanesian ordered a withdrawal.* Sheridan describ- 
ed the move: 

... all radios had been hit and casualties continued to 
mount. Moving the dead and wounded out of the killing 
zone required feats of bravery beyond comprehension. The 
NVA were everywhere. Lieutenant Colonel Ohanesian was 
carrying the last of the wounded Marines towards the 
perimeter when an explosion mortally wounded him. 



*Hill 124 was about 2,000 meters due west of Company L's 
position which was approximately the same distance northwest of 
Cam Lo. The hill was the commanding terrain feature along the 
enemy's probable route of withdrawal. 



*For his actions during the closely fought engagement Private 
First Class James Anderson, Jr., received the Medal of Honor, 
posthumously. When the fight began, the thick brush beside the 
trail prevented the Marines from deploying. When a grenade 
landed in the midst of the Marines, Anderson reached out, pulled 
the grenade to his chest, and curled around it as it went off. See 
Appendix D for complete citation. 



SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE DMZ- FEBRUARY- APRIL 1967 



13 



[plus] three other Marines, and myself. None of us could 
walk and Marines had to leave the relative safety of their 
holes to come get us.'' 

Although painfully wounded, Sheridan assumed 
command and directed the rest of the withdrawal to 
Company L's position and the consolidation of the 
perimeter. He requested emergency evacuation for 
the more than 100 casualties. While the Marines 
organized their defensive perimeter, the enemy 
closed to within 20 meters and attacked with small 
arms and grenades. The Marine tank crewmen and 
infantrymen returned the fire and forced the enemy 
to withdraw. At this time the helicopters arrived to 
pick up the wounded, but they were unable to land 
because of heavy fire in the landing zone. At 1830, 
the position was still being hit by intermittent mor- 
tar shelling, which by now had lasted more than 
three hours. Sheridan recalled: 

The enemy continued to alternately shell and [attempt 
to] overrun our small position the remainder of the night. 
Lieutenant Q)lonel Ohanesian died around midnight as it 
was impossible to secure a landing zone. Sergeant Major 
Wayne N. Hayes died about the same time of wounds suf- 
fered in hand-to-hand combat and grenade and mortar 
blasts. Constant artillery, night air strikes within 50 meters 
of our position and the courage of the Marines on the 
ground finally took their toll and the NVA withdrew.' 



^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^B^^ '^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^H 


H 


^^^^^^B 'J^^^^H 


^M 




1 




W^i 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189092 

LtCol Victor Ohanesian, the commanding officer of 
the 2d Battalion, 5 d Marines, shown here in Opera- 
tion Allegheny in August 1966, died early on 1 
March 1967 from shrapnel wounds suffered the 
previous afternoon as he carried a casualty to safety. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A193922 
Members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines 
who had finished Operation Chinook 11, rest while 
waiting for the helicopters that will transport them 
to Cam Lo Province to participate in Operation 
Prairie II just south of the Demilitarized Zone. 

Earlier, upon learning that Lieutenant Colonel 
Ohanesian had been wounded. Colonel Lanigan 
ordered his executive officer. Lieutenant Colonel 
Earl R. "Pappy" Delong to take command of the 2d 
Battalion, 3d Marines. In addition. Lieutenant Col- 
onel Delong received operational control of Com- 
pany F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines which, fortuitous- 
ly, was at Dong Ha after serving as escort for a 
"Roughrider" vehicle convoy from the south. Com- 
pany F went by truck to Cam Lo where it would 
begin moving overland to reinforce the hard-pressed 
2d Battalion, 3d Marines. Lieutenant Colonel 
Delong attempted to reach his new command by 
helicopter but enemy fire prevented a landing. He 
ordered the helicopter to Cam Lo where he joined 
Company F for the overland march. At 0340 on 1 
March, Delong arrived at the battalion's position 
and began reorganization and preparation for the 
evacuation of casualties. 

The 2d Battalion remained in position the entire 
day. About noon it was joined by Companies G and 
M. The Marines searched the surrounding area and 
recovered a large amount of enemy equipment. 
Company M made several contacts with small enemy 
groups, but the NVA force was withdrawing. The 2d 
Battalion, 3d Marines could continue its interrupted 
embarkation for Okinawa. 



14 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Two additional battalions were brought into the 
area on 1 March, Major James L. Day's 1st Battalion, 
9th Marines and Lieutenant Colonel Gary Wilder's 
3d Battalion, 3d Marines. Major Day's battalion 
moved by helicopters to Hill 162, Company M's 
former location, and began to sweep north. 

Meanwhile, Wilder's battalion attacked northwest 
from a position north of Cam Lo to try to squeeze 
the withdrawing enemy against the 1st Battalion, 
9th Marines. This maneuver restricted the Com- 
munists' escape route, thereby concentrating targets 
for Marine supporting arms. On 3 March, an air 
observer sighted three large enemy groups moving 
northwest toward the DMZ, carrying bodies. Massive 
artillery and air strikes were ordered. A foUowup 
sweep of the area by the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines 
revealed that the North Vietnamese had used the 
bomb and shell craters as mass graves for their dead; 
more than 200 NVA bodies were found. 

All enemy forces had not withdrawn. On the mor- 
ning of 7 March, the enemy made three separate 
mortar and rocket attacks on Camp Carroll. Between 
420 and 485 rounds hit the camp, including 209 
spin-stabilized 122mm rockets. 

The remainder of the Prairie II operation consisted 
of a series of battalion sweeps between Cam Lo and 
Con Thien. The Marines located several mass graves; 
the discovery of many abandoned bodies emphasiz- 
ed the disorganized state of the enemy. Numerous 
artillery and air strikes hit the scattered enemy forces 
trying to avoid contact. During the last week of the 
operation ARVN airborne units caught up with the 
NVA east and southeast of Con Thien. The enemy 
force, estimated to have been three battalions, broke 
contact after losing more than 250 killed. 

At 2400 on 18 March Operation Prairie II ended. 
Prairie II cost the NVA 694 killed and 20 captured; 
Marine casualties were 93 killed, 483 wounded, and, 
of these, approximately one-third of the Marines 
killed and two-thirds of the wounded were victims of 
mortar fire. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189085 
Maj James L. Day (right), commanding the 1st Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines, briefs BGen Michael P. Ryan on 
i March on the progress of Prairie II, as Company A 's 
commander, Capt Donald Festa (left), checks a map. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188463 
Marines of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines pause on 3 
March in their sweep of an area used by the North 
Vietnamese to bury more than 200 soldiers killed by 
supporting arms during Operation Prairie II. 




*This was the first use of this weapon in the DMZ area. The 
Chinese Communist 122mm rocket is similar to the obsolete U.S. 
4.5-inch rocket used during World War II. It has a range of 3,000 



Marine Corps Historical Collection 
2dLt Jerry D. Garner of Company A, 1st Battalion, 
9th Marines orders his platoon forward during the 
pursuit of NVA units north of Cam Lo on 3 March. 



SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE DMZ- FEBRUARY- APRIL 1967 



15 




The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines encountered a wide 
variety of terrain conditions and enemy activity dur- 
ing Operation Prairie II. Excellent observation in an 
area of elephant grass permitted 2dLt Jerry D. 
Garner of Company A (above photo, left) to observe 
the effectiveness of an airstrike on a distant NVA 
unit. The following day, 3 March, an NVA soldier 
surrendered to the company. The final day of the 
operation, 18 March, found Company C moving 
through a bombed-out forest in hills near Cam Lo. 

Marine Corps Historical Collection 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 188464 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188525 




4\ , 







16 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Operation Prairie III 

Increased enemy use of supporting arms became a 
constant concern for the Marines during Prairie III, 
which started immediately after Prairie II. At the 
start of the operation, enemy activity centered on the 
Cam Lo and Gio Linh districts. Contact was 
moderate, generally limited to small enemy groups. 
Prairie II had blunted earlier NVA intentions in the 
area, but all indications were that the enemy's deter- 
mination to challenge the Marines' presence had not 
diminished in spite of heavy casualties. 

Anticipating renewed NVA efforts. III MAP held 
five infantry battalions and four artillery battalions 
in the area. Battalions at Dong Ha served under the 
operational control of the 3d Division's forward 
headquarters, while those at Camp Carroll and the 
Rockpile came under the control of the 3d Marines. 
Additional company-strength outposts were at the 
Cua Viet port facility, Gio Linh, Mai Loc, Ba Long, 
and Ca Lu; a two-company outpost was at Khe Sanh. 
The Marines conducted energetic reconnaissance 
throughout the area. 

The increased operational tempo in the DMZ area 
placed a heavy strain on Dong Ha logistic facilities. 
Supplies for the Prairie area of operation arrived at 
either the Dong Ha airfield, which had been extend- 
ed to handle C-130 transports, or they came north 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 188 5 24 

T^e Start of Operation Prairie III found Company C, 
1st Battalion, 9th Marines moving through heavy 
elephant grass as the battalion searched the moun- 
tains north of Cam Lo for North Vietnamese units. 



Trucks of the 9th Motor Transport Battalion move over Highway 9 from Dong Ha to 
Khe Sanh on 28 March. The 11th Engineer Battalion had opened the road on the 19th 
after months of effort that involved coping with adverse weather and enemy attacks. 

Marine Corps Historical Collection 





SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE DMZ- FEBRUARY- APRIL 1967 



17 



from Da Nang by LCUs (landing craft, utility) up 
the Cua Viet River to Dong Ha. On 18 March, a ma- 
jor step in easing the logistic burden occurred when 
an LST (landing ship, tank) ramp opened at Cua 
Viet. These LSTs could discharge their cargo for tran- 
shipment up the river by LCUs and LCMs (landing 
craft, medium). The Cua Viet facility more than 
tripled the daily tonnage that could be brought in by 
ships. 

A second significant logistic event occurred on the 
19th. Route 9 opened from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh, 
thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Ross L. Mulford's 11th 
Engineer Battalion. Mulford's engineers had worked 
on the road for months, hindered by terrible weather 
conditions, mines, and the NVA. The military 
significance of their effort was considerable, since it 
reduced the requirement to commit aircraft for 
logistic support of the Khe Sanh outpost until late 
summer, when enemy activity closed the road. 

When Operation Prairie III started, it appeared 
that Marine forces continued to face elements of the 
524B and the 34lst NVA Divisions north of the Ben 
Hai River. Battalion-size elements of both enemy 
divisions were in Quang Tri Province, conducting ex- 
tensive screening and reconnaissance missions, as 
well as attempting to disrupt the Revolutionary 
Development Program. Additionally, ARVN units 
reported that the 808th VC and 81 4th NVA Bat- 
talions were east and south of Quang Tri City. 

On 20 March Lieutenant Colonel WiUiam H. 
Rice's Composite Artillery Battalion at Gio Linh 
came under attack by mortars, rockets, and artillery. 
The attack demonstrated the enemy's ability to 
employ artillery from positions north of the Ben Hai 
River. Although the bombardment on the 20th was 
the heaviest, both Gio Linh and Con Thien received 
almost daily attacks during the next two weeks. 

Further evidence of increased enemy activity in 
the area occurred on 21 March. At 0200 an enemy 
force ambushed an ammunition resupply convoy on- 
ly 300 meters south of Gio Linh. As the convoy ap- 
proached the artillery position, the enemy struck 
with heavy small arms and mortar fire, destroying 
eight trucks and damaging six others. Fortunately, 
friendly casualties totaled only eight wounded 
because of the rapid reaction of both the convoy 
guard and the Gio Linh security company, Company 
I, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. 

When Prairie III began, the 3d Battalion, 3d 
Marines and the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines were con- 
ducting a mission in the mountains west of Cam Lo 



approximately 6,000 meters north of Camp Carroll. 
The seven-day operation ended on the 21st having 
made little contact with the enemy, but discovered 
numerous mortar positions and rocket launching 
sites, which probably were the positions used in the 
attack against Camp Carroll on 7 March. A search of 
the area uncovered 125 large rockets and 3 rocket 
launchers. Both battalions received orders to sweep 
north from Cam Lo in support of Operation Beacon 
Hill being conducted to the east by Seventh Fleer's 
SLF. 

For some time General Walt had been troubled by 
growing enemy activity in the region northeast of 
Dong Ha. His greatest concern was the possibility of 
an NVA attempt to overrun the Gio Linh artillery 
base. Its 175mm guns were capable of firing at posi- 
tions deep in North Vietnam. To counter this threat. 
General Walt asked the commander of U.S. Military 
Assistance Command Vietnam (ComUSMACV) to 
have the SLF committed to this area.* CinCPac ap- 
proved the request on 15 March. Operation Beacon 
Hill moved into the planning phase, with 19 March 
set as D-Day. 

Bad weather postponed the scheduled landing 
from ships of the Seventh Fleet's Amphibious Ready 
Group until the early afternoon of the 20th. Initial 
operations were unopposed, but BLT 1/4 elements 
near Gio Linh received fire from enemy supporting 
arms that night. Company B made contact on the 
21st, and the BLT engaged well-entrenched enemy 
units through the 26th. On 28 March, BLT 1/4 pass- 
ed to the operational control of the 3d Marines. On 1 
April Beacon Hill ended, and III MAF released the 
BLT to SLF control. 

The contribution of Beacon Hill to the Prairie III 
operation, going on 10 miles to the west, can be 
measured, in part, by casualty figures. During 12 
operational days, BLT 1/4 killed 334 NVA soldiers 
who otherwise would have been available for use 
against the battalions involved in Prairie III. Beacon 
Hill tied up a substantial enemy force. Marine 
casualties totaled 29 SLF Marines killed and 230 
wounded.** 



*General Westmoreland, as ComUSMACV, could not 
audiorize the landing of the SLF; CinCPac was the authorizing 
command. 

** Chapter 11 contains the detailed account of SLF participation 
in Beacon Hill/ Prairie III. 



18 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188383 
Members of Company K, Sd Battalion, Sd Marines cross a stream on 19 March as the 
battalion conducted a seven-day search west of Cam Lo early in Operation Prairie III. 



To the west of Beacon Hill, other Marines involv- 
ed in Operation Prairie III experienced similar light 
contact during the opening phases. The two bat- 
talions under command of the 3d Marines — the 3d 
Battalion, 3d Marines and 1st Battalion, 9th 
Marines — had moved from the Dong Ha/ Dong Ma 
Mountain complex to Cam Lo on 21 March in 
preparation for a sweep north to Con Thien. The 
next morning both battalions jumped off at first 
light; Lieutenant Colonel Wilder's 3d Battalion, 3d 
Marines was on the left and Major Day's 1st Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines was on the right. They en- 
countered light contact during the first two days, but 
on 24 March Day's battalion found an NVA bat- 
talion southeast of Con Thien. The enemy was in 
well-prepared defensive positions consisting of 
mutually supporting bunkers. After two hours of 
heavy fighting, which included concentrated air and 
artillery strikes, the enemy withdrew, leaving 33 
bodies.* 

While Major Day's 1st Battalion attacked the 



*During this action Sergeant Walter K. Singleton of Company 
A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marmes, assaulted the key enemy strong 
point with a machine gun. Though mortally wounded, he drove 
the enemy from the position. Sergeant Singleton was awarded the 
Medal of Honor posthumously. See Appendix D for complete 
citation. 



Communist bunker complex. Lieutenant Colonel 
Wilder's battalion, on the left, engaged an NVA 
company. This unit was also well entrenched in 
camouflaged, reinforced bunkers. The enemy's light 
mortars were dug in below ground level, making 
them even more difficult to locate. Artillery, follow- 
ed up by an assault by Company I, cracked the posi- 
tion. The NVA broke contact and withdrew, leaving 
behind 28 bodies, including two uniformed women. 
The enemy attempted to delay the Marine ad- 
vance with harassing mortar and sniper fire for the 
next two days. By the evening of 26 March the Com- 
munist force had broken contact and withdrawn into 
the DMZ. 

On the 28th, the 3d Marines pulled both bat- 
talions out of the area and replaced them with 
Lieutenant Colonel James S. Wilson's 3d Battalion, 
9th Marines. Wilson's mission was to conduct night 
ambushes in the area immediately north of Cam Lo. 
There was very little contact for the first two days, 
but on the 30th, as Company 1 completed 
establishing platoon ambush positions, the NVA at- 
tacked the company command post and the 2d pla- 
toon's position. Company I's positions were approx- 
imately six miles northwest of Cam Lo. The Com- 
munists walked mortar fire over the position twice, 
then followed with a ground assault in company 



SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE DMZ- FEBRUARY-APRIL 1967 



19 



Strength. The first assault failed when the company 
commander, Captain Michael P. Getlin, called in 
supporting arms. As the first attack started, both the 
1st and 3d Platoons tried to help the command 
group and the 2d Platoon, but the enemy stopped 
the Marines with a cross-fire of automatic weapons. 
The NVA assaulted a second time. This time they 
overran the position. 

With the help of UH-lE gunships, the company 
managed to drive off the enemy. The NVA lost 67 
killed and 2 captured in both attacks, and a search of 
the area the following morning turned up a heavy 
machine gun and 12 automatic weapons. Company 
I's losses were heavy. Sixteen Marines died, includmg 
the company commander, executive officer, and the 
weapons platoon commander; 47 more were wound- 
ed, including the company first sergeant.* 

Enemy activity around Quang Tri City increased 
during the first week of April. The NVA launched a 
series of mortar and ground attacks against ARVN 
positions in the area. On 6 April a Viet Cong unit 
broke into the Quang Tri provincial jail, freeing 
more than 200 prisoners. 

In spite of this surge of enemy activity to the 
south, the Marines' main concerns in the Prairie area 
continued to be blocking major invasion attempts by 
the NVA and clearing an anti-infiltration trace be- 
tween Gio Linh and Con Thien. The second task, in- 



cluded in the development of a strongpoint system, 
was intended to stop large-scale infiltration in the 
critical area along the eastern DMZ.* 

On 12 April, Major General Bruno A. Hochmuth, 
a lanky Texan who had assumed command of the 3d 
Marine Division from Major General Kyle the 
previous month, established a task force around 
Lieutenant Colonel TheodoreJ. Willis' 1st Battalion, 
4th Marines.** Its mission was to provide security for 
Company C, 11th Engineer Battalion. The engineer 
company was to clear a 200-meter-wide strip from 
Gio Linh to Con Thien, a distance of 10,600 meters. 
Willis' task force was reinforced with a platoon of 
tanks, an armored amphibian tractor (LVTH-6) pla- 
toon, a platoon of M-42 track-mounted dual 40mm 
guns of the 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery, USA, and 
some ARVN forces. From the onset the clearing 
operation proceeded under constant harassment by 
enemy artillery, mortars, mines, recoiUess rifles, and 
small arms. Despite enemy activity, the Marines had 
completed approximately half of the strip by 19 
April when Operation Prairie III ended. 

Prairie III cost the enemy 252 killed, 4 captured, 
and 128 weapons seized. Marine losses were 56 killed 
and 530 wounded. The Prairie series was far from 
over; Prairie IV began the next day in the same place 
and with the same forces. 



*Second Lieutenant John P. Bobo, the weapons platoon com- 
mander, later received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his ac- 
tions during the encounter. See Appendix D for the complete 
citation. 



*The trace or strong point system will be covered more fully in 
Chapter 8. 

**At the conclusion of Operation Beacon Hill, 1 April 1967, 
BLT 1/4 transferred from the SLF to the 3d Marine Division. 



CHAPTER 3 

Combined US/ARVN Operations in the DMZ 

operation Prairie IV Begins — Attack on Con Thien — Into the DMZ— Operation Lam Son 54 
Operation Beau Charger— Operation Hickory — Operation Priarie IV Ends 



Operation Prairie IV Begins 

Enemy concentrations of troops and artillery in 
the DMZ area dictated the reinforcement of the 3d 
Marine Division. Responding to the demands of the 
situation, MACV deployed Army Task Force Oregon 
to the southern two provinces of I Corps in April to 
allow Marine units to reinforce the northern three 
provinces.* As a result of the northward shift of 
Marine forces, Colonel Robert M. Jenkins' 9th 
Marines headquarters moved from Da Nang to Dong 
Ha during 12-16 April. At the same time. III MAF 
shifted the 2d Battalions of the 4th and 26th Marines 
from the 1st Marine Division area to the vicinity of 
Phu Bai. 

The introduction of a second regimental head- 
quarters into Quang Tri Province permitted the clos- 
ing of the 3d Division's forward command post at 
Dong Ha after the conclusion of Operation Prairie 
III. Units operating from Dong Ha reverted to the 
operational control of the 9th Marines, while the 3d 
Marines controlled those operating from Camp Car- 
roll. 

Operation Prairie IV started on 20 April as a two- 
regiment search and destroy operation, covering the 
same area as Prairie III. The concept of employment 
placed the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines and the 3d Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines in the northwest portion of the 
area of operations. The 9th Marines, using the 1st 
Battalions of the 4th and 9th Marines, was to cover 
the vital piedmont area in and around Quang Tri 
City. The boundary between the two units was just 
west of the Cam Lo-Con Thien axis. 

Initially, the operation confined all units to 
relatively fixed positions. Lieutenant Colonel 



Wilson's 3d Battalion, 9th Marines was charged with 
the security of Camp Carroll and the outpost at Mai 
Loc. Wilder's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines held the 
Rockpile and placed companies at Ca Lu and Ba 
Long. The latter battalion was also responsible for 
providing security for the 11th Engineers, who kept 




*The deployment of Task Force Oregon into the Chu Lai area is 
covered in detail in Chapter 6. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188645 
A UH-34D from Marine Medium Helicopter 
Squadron 163 uses a newly constructed helicopter 
pad on top of the Rockpile to resupply members of 
the 5d Battalion, 3d Marines. Helicopters previously 
performed this mission by hovering with one wheel 
on a tiny wooden ramp. (See photograph on page 
183 of the volume U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1966.J 



20 



COMBINED US/ ARVN OPERATIONS IN THE DMZ 



21 



Route 9 open into Khe Sanh. In the 9th Marines' 
area of operation, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines 
defended the Dong Ha combat base and provided 
one company for security of the Cua Viet petroleum , 
oil, and lubricants (POL) facility. The 1st Battalion, 
4th Marines protected the engineers clearing the 
trace between Gio Linh and Con Thien, referred to 
as "Ryan's Road" because of Brigadier General 
Michael P. Ryan's frequent visits and interest in the 
project. The battalion also continued to provide a 
company for security for the Gio Linh Composite Ar- 
tillery Battalion. 

Although contact with enemy infantry was light at 
the beginning of the operation, reconnaissance 
reports indicated an NVA buildup northwest of the 
Rockpile. Mortar, rocket, and artillery attacks con- 
tinued against the Marines clearing "Ryan's Road," 
as well as against the Con Thien and Gio Linh out- 
posts. Attacks on these two positions and against 
Lieutenant Colonel Willis' 1st Battalion, 4th Marines 
and the engineers became almost daily affairs, and 
included not only mortar and rocket fire from the 
southern half of the DMZ, but also medium and 
heavy artillery fire from a growing number of for- 
tifications north of the Ben Hai River. 

On 24 April a major battle broke out in the 
western DMZ near Khe Sanh, the beginning of 
heavy fighting which continued throughout the 
summer all along the demarcation line.* In conjunc- 
tion with the battle being fought in the west, the 
enemy stepped up activity in the east. Enemy forces 
cut Route 9 between Cam Lo and Khe Sanh 
repeatedly in an effort to isolate the Marines in that 
area. In consort with this effort, the NVA attacked 
the Marine installations at Gio Linh, Camp Carroll, 
and Dong Ha with mortars, rockets, and artillery. 
The period 27-28 April was particularly savage. Ap- 
proximately 850 rounds of artillery, plus 200 mortar 
rounds blasted Gio Linh, while more than 50 
l40mm rockets hit Dong Ha. 

Attack on Con Thien 

On 8 May, the 13th anniversary of the fall of Dien 
Bien Phu, the NVA tried to overrun the Marine posi- 
tion at Con Thien. The outpost, less than two miles 
from the southern boundary of the DMZ, was on a 
hill only 158 meters high in the middle of a red mud 



plain. It afforded the best observation in the area, 
overlooking the DMZ to the north and west, as well 
as the Marine base at Dong Ha to the southeast. As a 
strategic terrain feature, Con Thien was important to 
the Communists; before the summer was over, it 
achieved an additional symbolic importance. 

At the time of the attack, the outpost contained a 
small command group of the 1st Battalion, 4th 
Marines, reinforced companies A and D of the bat- 
talion, and a civilian irregular defense group (CIDG) 
unit. The Marines were there to provide security for 
the engineers, who, having completed the trace on 1 
May, were busy clearing a 500-meter-wide strip 
around the perimeter of the outpost. At 0255, the 
morning of 8 May, a green flare lit the sky south of 
the hill, followed immediately by a savage 
300-round mortar and artillery attack. Concurrently, 
Camp Carroll, Gio Linh, and Dong Ha also came 
under fire. 

At Con Thien, enemy units maneuvering under 
cover of the barrage breached the defensive wire with 
bangalore torpedoes, and small elements moved in- 
side. At approximately 0400, two NVA battalions, 
armed with flamethrowers, RPGs, and automatic 
weapons, attacked through the breach in the wire. 
The brunt of this assault fell on the right flank of 
Company D. The Marines engaged the enemy force 
in bitter hand-to-hand fighting. An engineer pla- 
toon moved to reinforce Company D. The situation 
became serious when the Marines ran out of 81mm 
mortar illumination rounds; artillery illumination 
from the nearest artillery at Gio Linh could not reach 
Con Thien.* A flare plane finally arrived and pro- 
vided much-needed illumination until daylight. 

Meanwhile, Company A sent a platoon to help 
Company D, as well as to protect an ammunition 
resupply convoy composed of an attached Army M42 
"Duster," two LVTHs, and two 1/4-ton trucks. As 
these elements moved up to support the hard- 
pressed Marines of Company D, the relief vehicles 
came under enemy fire. The Army M42, which was 
the lead vehicle, stopped and burst into flames after 
being hit by an enemy RPG antitank projectile. A 
satchel charge exploded under the following LVTH. 
It began to burn but its crew managed to get out. 
The trailing LVTH, trying to get around the burning 
vehicles, which now included the 1/4-ton trucks. 



*For a detailed account of the action at Khe Sanh see Chapter 



*There is no illumination round for the 173mm gun. 



22 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo ((JSMC) A193904 
An amphibian tractor (LVTP-3) hit by North Vietnamese mortars on the night of 8 May 
at Gio Linh still burns the next morning. The other vehicle is an Army M-42 "Duster" 
equipped with twin 40inm automatic cannon and often used in a ground support role. 



became entangled by barbed wire around its left rear 
sprocket. The tractor was stuck. Despite their losses, 
the reinforcing Marines continued to Company D's 
position. With these reinforcements, Company D 
halted the enemy penetration and sealed off the 
break in the wire just before daylight. By 0900, the 
enemy soldiers still within the perimeter were either 
dead or captured.' 

The recently completed brush clearance around 
the perimeter paid early dividends. It permitted the 
Marines to catch the retreating North Vietnamese in 
the open as they crossed the cleared strip. Tanks and 
LVTHs firing both conventional and "beehive" an- 
tipersonnel ammunition were particularly effective.* 
Supporting fires of the Composite Artillery Battalion 
at Gio Linh ripped into the enemy as it withdrew 
north to the DMZ. 

The defending Marines lost 44 killed and 110 
wounded, as well as two LVTHs and one 1/4-ton 
truck destroyed, but the hard and bloody battle cost 



the enemy 197 killed and 8 captured. The Com- 
munists left behind 72 weapons, including 19 an- 
titank weapons, 3 light machine guns, and 3 
flamethrowers.* 

The 8 May attack on Con Thien had been carefully 
rehearsed, but the enemy displayed an inherent in- 
ability to alter plans. The NVA attacked the 
strongest point of the defensive perimeter and con- 
tinued to press the attack at this point, even when it 
was clear that it had encountered heavier resistance 
than anticipated. The enemy planners were not 
aware of the arrival of the two Marine companies. 
Company D had replaced an ARVN unit only a few 
days before the attack. 

Following this battle, enemy activity intensified 
throughout the "Leatherneck Square" area.** The 
number and volume of artillery attacks increased 
greatly. More than 4,200 mortar, rocket, and ar- 
tillery rounds were fired at Marine positions during 
the month. The enemy revealed the degree and 



*See Chapter 13 for discussion of "beehive ammunition. 



*This was the first instance of NVA use of flamethrowers 
against the Marines. 

**"Leatherncck Square" was the quadrilateral between Con 
Thien, Gio Linh, Dong Ha, and Cam Lo. 



COMBINED US/ ARVN OPERATIONS IN THE DMZ 



23 




Marine Corps Historical Collection 

Maj Edward H. Boyd, the executive officer of the 1st 
Battalion, 4th Marines, shows one of the three cap- 
tured flame throwers used by NVA units that attack- 
ed the base at Con Thien in the early hours of 8 May. 

sophistication of its buildup in tlie area on 10 May 
by the destruction of a Douglas A-4E Skyhawk flying 
a radar-controlled mission near the southern boun- 
dary of the DMZ. As the plane approached its 
target, Marines on the ground witnessed the firing of 
three surface-to-air missiles (SAM) from positions 
north of the Ben Hai River. One of the missiles hit 
the A-4E; the aircraft disappeared from the controll- 
ing radar screen at Dong Ha. This was the first 
reported use of Communist SAMs over South Viet- 
nam. 

Into the DMZ 

Enemy ground action increased. During the 
period 13-16 May, while clearing Route 561 from 
Cam Lo to Con Thien, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines 
made heavy contact with a large NVA force in well 
prepared positions just south of Con Thien. The 
enemy fought well and retired north of the DMZ 
boundary only after extreme pressure. 

Once again the enemy used the unusual advan- 
tage conferred by the de facto access to the DMZ, 
and thus to all of South Vietnam. Marine forces still 



were forbidden by U.S. policy to move beyond the 
southern edge of the DMZ. For some time much of 
the shelling, particularly that by shorter-ranged 
weapons, mortars, and rockets, came from the 
region south of the Ben Hai River. It was equally 
clear that the enemy was using the southern DMZ as 
a sanctuary from which to launch ground attacks, 
such as the one against Con Thien. 

On 8 May, after the Con Thien attack, 
Washington changed the DMZ policy. MACV then 
authorized III MAP to conduct ground operations in 
the southern half of the DMZ, and III MAP, in con- 
junction with the South Vietnamese, quickly drew 
up plans for combined USMC/ARVN ground, am- 
phibious, and heliborne operations in the eastern 
portion of the area. The basic concept called for 
ground attacks by the 3d Marine Division and 1st 
ARVN Division along parallel routes, as far north as 
the Ben Hai River. 

Combined with the ground attack, the newly 
formed Special Landing Force Alpha was to conduct 
an amphibious landing in the southern portion of 
the DMZ along the coast to secure the area as far 
north as the south bank of the Ben Hai River*. On 
reaching the Ben Hai, all units were to turn around 
and attack south on a broad front, sweeping as far as 
Route 9, destroying all enemy units, installations, 
and supplies encountered. In addition, the plan in- 
cluded the development of a freefire zone which in- 
volved the evacuation by South Vietnamese National 
Police of some 12,000 noncombatants living within 
the buffer zone. Operational code names were 
Hickory for the 3d Marine Division units, Beau 
Charger and Belt Tight for the SLFs, and Lam Son 
54** for the ARVN forces. The ARVN force for this 
operation was composed of three battalions of air- 
borne troops and two battalions of the 1st ARVN 
Division. The combined operation was to start on 18 
May. More fire support was allocated for this opera- 
tion than for any previous operation in the 3d Divi- 
sion's operating area. 

The available fire support included artillery, 
augmented by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, two 
cruisers, and seven destroyers (six U.S. and one 
Australian), as well as by aircraft from the Seventh 



*At ComUSMACV's request, CinCPac committed a second SLF 
to the area on 15 April. The two SLFs were identified as Alpha 
and Bravo. (See Chapter 11). 

**Lam Son was an ancient Vietnamese cultural hero for whom 
all the 1st ARVN Division operations were named. LtGen Louis 
Metzger, comments on draft MS, [1981]. 



24 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Operations Hickory, Lam Son 54, 
Belt Tight, and Beau Charger 
19-26 May 1967 



kilometers L. 



See Reference Map. Se 



SIF 




South 
China 
Sea 



rger\ 



<?e 



o 



ti^ 



/iet 



Air Force and the Seventh Fleet. The majority of the 
support focused on enemy concentrations and gun 
positions in the northern portion of the DMZ and 
the adjacent area to the immediate north, and, if re- 
quired, as counterbattery fire against North Viet- 
namese shore batteries. 

A buildup of Marine forces in the Prairie area pre- 
ceded the operation. Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. 
Figard's 2d Battalion, 26th Marines arrived from 
Phong Dien on 15 May; the 3d Battalion, 4th 
Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel 
Wendell N. Vest, came in from Okinawa on the 
15th; and the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, command- 
ed by Lieutenant Colonel John J. Peeler, arrived 
from Phu Bai on the l6th.* At the beginning of the 
operation three battalions, the 1st Battalion, 4th 
Marines and the 1st and 3d Battalions, 9th Marines 
provided augmentation from Operation Prairie IV 



*At the request of ComUSMACV, CinCPac directed the 
deployment of BLT 3/4, the last element of the Pacific Command 
reserve, to I Corps. In a massive 42-plane Air Force and Marine 
airlift the BLT moved directly from Okinawa to Dong Ha. The en- 
tire lift of the 1,233-man force took exactly 31 hours. 



forces. In addition, SLF Bravo was to act as 3d Divi- 
sion Reserve. The same day Colonel Edward E. Ham- 
merbeck, the new regimental commander, deployed 
the 9th Marines command post to a position just 
north of Cam Lo. 

During the night of 17-18 May the NVA directed 
heavy mortar, rocket, and artillery attacks against all 
Marine positions along the DMZ. Gio Linh and 
Dong Ha suffered the most. From 2350 on the 17th 
until 0401 on the 18th, over 300 rounds hit Gio 
Linh, killing 1 Marine and wounding 12 others. 
During the attack on Dong Ha, at 0315, 150 l40mm 
rockets killed 11 and wounded 91. One rocket scored 
a direct hit on the roof of the 3d Marine Division 
Combat Operations Center (COC), but there were 
no casualties. The rocket detonated prematurely 
upon hitting a tin roof the division recently had 
built a few feet above the original sandbagged but 
leaky roof.^ Next door, the ARVN COC had no 
sandbag protection and suffered numerous 
casualties. The rockets also damaged considerable 
amounts of equipment, including minor fragment 
damage to several helicopters of Major Marvin E. 



COMBINED US/ ARVN OPERATIONS IN THE DMZ 



25 




Marine Corps Historical Collection 

North Vietnamese soldiers captured in Operations Hickory and Lam Son 34 stand blind- 
folded outside the 9th Marines' headquarters at the Dong Ha combat base on 2} May. 



Day's Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 363.* 
The Communist artillery attacks, nevertheless, were 
fortuitous for they allowed the allied forces to bom- 
bard the NVA positions in and north of the DMZ, 
under the guise of counterbattery fire, thereby main- 
taining tactical surprise for the forthcoming opera- 
tion. 

Operation Lam Son 34 

Hickory /Lam Son 54 started on schedule. The 1st 
ARVN Division elements jumped off at 0500, mov- 
ing in column up Route 1, into the DMZ. Surprise 
was complete; the ARVN units encountered no 
resistance as they moved to the Ben Hai and wheeled 
south. The two 1st ARVN Division battalions started 
their sweep south on the east side of Route 1 , while 
the three airborne battalions, supported by tanks, 



*While the damage to the helicopters was minor, this and 
subsequent attacks disrupted helicopter operations by preventing 
normal maintenance. This caused the rotation of squadrons in Ju- 
ly and the subsequent abandonment in the fall of Dong Ha as a 
permanent helicopter base in favor of Quang Tri. LtCol Horace A. 
Bruce, Comments on draft ms, I4jul81, (Comment File, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.). 



turned to the west and then southward abreast the 
advance of the 1st Division units east of the 
highway. 

On the 19th, the airborne battalions engaged 
elements of the 31st and 812th NVA Regiments. 
From then until the 27th, when Lam Son 54 ended, 
ARVN units were in constant contact with the 
enemy. Their casualties were 22 killed and 122 
wounded. The enemy suffered more substantial 
losses: 342 killed, 30 captured, and 51 weapons seiz- 
ed. Most of the casualties occurred in the area known 
as the "rocket belt" north of Dong Ha. 

Operation Beau Charger 

East of the Lam Son 54 operational area. Opera- 
tion Beau Charger began at the scheduled L-hour 
and H-hour of 0800, 18 May. Just before and during 
the launching of the assault, a duel started between 
Navy fire support ships and NVA shore batteries. 
Although the NVA batteries hit no ships, 10 salvos 
bracketed the USS Point Defiance (LSD 31). After 
return fire silenced the shore batteries, the surface 
landing proceeded without further incident; there 
was no opposition. 



26 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The Beau Charger heliborne force experienced a 
different reception. Landing Zone Goose was a "hot" 
zone, and only one platoon of Company A, the 
assault company, managed to land. The Com- 
munists closed in and the situation was very much in 
doubt. At 1100 elements of Company D and the rest 
of Company A, reinforced with tanks, succeeded in 
joining up with the isolated assault platoon. The 
Communists withdrew only after air strikes began to 
hammer their positions. 

On the 18th, NVA gunners ranged in on suppor- 
ting Marine SLF artillery positions, knocking out two 
guns. Ships of the Seventh Fleet returned fire, 
silencing the North Vietnamese batteries. The 
Marines relocated their remaining guns at positions 
5,800 meters further south. 

Action during the rest of Beau Charger consisted 
of light contact and continuing artillery harassment 
until the operation ended on 26 May.* West of the 
Beau Charger operational area the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion was faced with a much different situation. 
There, the enemy had come to fight. 

Operation Hickory 

Adjacent to the Lam Son 54 /Beau Charger opera- 
tional area, 3d Marine Division units launched 
Operation Hickory on the morning of 18 May. 
Lieutenant Colonel Figard's 2d Battalion, 26th 
Marines and Lieutenant Colonel Peeler's 2d Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines, supported by tanks and Ontos, 
advanced northward from positions near Con 
Thien.** Concurrently, Lieutenant Colonel Vest's 
3d Battalion, 4th Marines moved by helicopters into 
a landing zone (LZ) within the DMZ near the Ben 
Hai River, northwest of Con Thien. The heliborne 
battalion was to act as a blocking force to prevent the 
enemy from escaping to the north, or to stop the 
movement of reinforcements into the area from the 
north. 

Shortly after 1100 the lead element of Figard's 2d 
Battalion, 26th Marines made contact with a force 
which intelligence officers later determined to have 
been two battalions. All elements of the Marine bat- 
talion quickly became engaged in the battle; the 



enemy defended from well prepared bunkers and 
trenches. As the battalion moved against the NVA 
positions, the right flank came under vicious 
automatic weapons and mortar fire. Casualties were 
heavy. Among them were Lieutenant Colonel Figard 
and his S-3, both of whom required evacuation. 
Despite the heavy enemy fire, the Navy hospital 
corpsmen continued their treatment of the wound- 
ed. ' By 1600, Peeler's 2d Battalion, 9th Marines had 
moved up on the right of the 2d Battalion, 26th 
Marines and was also in close contact. Fighting con- 
tinued until nightfall when the Marines broke con- 
tact and pulled back to evacuate casualties. During 
the day, enemy fire killed 5 Marines and wounded 
142; 31 enemy soldiers were known to have been 
killed. 

The 3d Marine Division already had replaced the 
wounded Lieutenant Colonel Figard with a new bat- 
talion commander. As soon as it learned of Figard's 
condition, the division immediately ordered Lieu- 
tenant Colonel William J. Masterpool, who had just 
joined the division staff after command of 3d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines, to assume command of the 2d 
Battalion, 26th Marines. 

That night, 75 radar-controlled air strikes hit the 
NVA positions in front of the two Marine battalions. 
At 0500 on 19 May, heavy artillery fire fell on the 
enemy defenses and both battalions jumped off in 
the attack at 0700. During the "prep" fires several 
short rounds landed on Company F, 2d Battalion, 
9th Marines, killing 3 and wounding 2 Marines. 
Within minutes, the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines 
again checked its advance because of savage fire from 
its front and right, while Peeler's battalion en- 
countered only light small arms fire and pushed 
rapidly ahead to relieve the pressure on Masterpool's 
flank. By 1030 the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines had 
overrun the enemy bunker complex, accounting for 
34 North Vietnamese killed and 9 wounded. 

As the 5 d Marine Division begins Operation Hickory 
on 18 May, CH-46A Sea Knight helicopters com- 
mence lifting the 5d Battalion, 4th Marines to a 
blocking position within the DMZ near the Ben Hai 

River, northwest of the important Con Thien base. 
Marine Corps Historical Collection 



*See Chapter 11 for the detailed operation of SLF involvement 
during Operation Beau Charger. 

**The Ontos, or M50A1, was a lightly armored, tracked vehicle 
which mounted six 106mm recoilless rifles. Originally intended as 
an antitank vehicle, the Ontos, because of its mobility, became an 
all-purpose infantry support weapons system in Vietnam. 



COMBINED US/ ARVN OPERATIONS IN THE DMZ 



27 




Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A801287 
This log and dirt bunker, part of an unoccupied enemy fortified complex found by the 
Sd Battalion, 4th Marines on 18 May during Operation Hickory, illustrates the type of 
well constructed and camouflaged North Vietnamese Army fortifications often encoun- 
tered by the 5d Marine Division in the battles in and below the Demilitarized Zone. 



During the rest of the morning both battaUons 
continued to advance against neghgible resistance. 
At 1330, Captain Robert J. Thompson's Company 
H, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, on the easternmost 
flank of the advance, met heavy automatic weapon 
and mortar fire from the east. The company re- 
turned fire, but then received additional enemy fire 
from a tree line 60 meters to the front. Again the 
Marines returned fire and a tank moved up in sup- 
port. It silenced the enemy with cannister fire. A 
squad sent forward to check out the area also came 
under heavy automatic weapons fire. The tank, mov- 
ing to support the squad, halted after being hit by 
RPG rounds and began to burn. A second tank 
maneuvered forward to help; RPGs disabled it also. 
Captain Thompson, unable to use other supporting 
arms because of wounded Marines to his front, 
moved the entire company forward to retrieve the 
dead and wounded. After moving the wounded to 
the rear, the company pulled back and called in sup- 
porting arms fire on the evacuated area. The action 



cost the Marines 7 killed and 12 wounded; enemy 
casualties were unknown. 

In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Vest's 3d 
Battalion, 4th Marines, after the heavy action involv- 
ing the 2d Battalions, 26th and 9th Marines, swept 
to the southeast to block the NVA withdrawal. On 
18 May the battalion made little contact, but 
discovered a large, abandoned, fortified position, 
well stocked with food and equipment. For the next 
two days Vest's battalion maneuvered toward the 
other Marine battalions which were moving north. 
Contact was light, but the battalion encountered in- 
termittent mortar and artillery fire. The battalion 
continued to uncover large caches of rice and am- 
munition—over 30 tons of rice and 10 tons of am- 
munition—but due to the heat and distance to the 
landing zones much of the rice could not be moved 
and had to be destroyed.* 

*High temperatures reduce helicopter lift capability, hence the 
inability to evacuate the large quantities of rice without diversion 
of additional helicopters from other missions. 



28 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



To the southwest, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson's 3d 
Battalion, 9th Marines, screening the western or left 
flank of the operation, saw little action during the 
first two days. Then, on 20 May, Company K, point 
for the battalion, made contact with what it initially 
estimated to be an enemy platoon deployed in 
mutually supporting bunkers in a draw. The enemy, 
at least a company, took Company K under fire. To 
relieve pressure on Company K, Company L 
maneuvered to the flank of the enemy position, but 
was unable to link up with Company K because of 
heavy enemy fire. Both companies spent the night 
on opposite sides of the draw with the enemy force 
between them, while supporting arms pounded the 
enemy position all night. 

On the 21st, Company M moved forward and 
joined with K and L and the three companies were 
able to clear the area. The clearing operation was 
costly: 26 Marines were killed and 59 wounded. The 
Marines counted only 36 enemy bodies, but the 
lingering smell in the draw indicated that many 
others were in the destroyed fortifications. 

Meanwhile, the division reserve, SLF Bravo's BLT 
2/3, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel DeLong, 
and HMM-164, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel 
Rodney D. McKitrick, joined Operation Hickory on 
the 20th. The employment of SLF Bravo involved a 
unique departure from the norm for amphibious 
operations in that the heliborne force passed to the 
control of the 3d Marine Division as it crossed the 
high water mark. This procedure ensured positive 
control of all supporting arms covering the 
battalion's approach to its inland tactical area of 
reponsibility (TAOR).* 

The squadron helilifted the battalion into the 
DMZ northwest of Gio Linh to block possible 
withdrawal routes of NVA units then engaged with 
ARVN airborne formations to the east. By noon all 
elements of the battalion were ashore and sweeping 
north toward the DMZ. The Marines of BLT 2/3 en- 
countered only light resistance from small NVA 
units, apparently security elements for several large 
ordnance caches and bunker complexes. One of the 
bunkers was exceptionally sophisticated, constructed 
of steel overhead and walls. The Marines captured 




*The battalion's movement from the SLF shipping to its inland 
TAOR was called Operation Belt Tight . See Chapter 8 for a more 
detailed account of SLF participation in Belt Tight. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188700 



Capt Troy T. Shirley, commanding Company L, 3d 
Battalion, 9th Marines, talks to some of his men 
after the company sustained heavy casualties during 
Operation Hickory close to the Demilitarized Zone. 

more than 1,000 60mm mortar rounds, as well as 
large quantities of small arms ammunition and 
medical supplies in the same complex. 

After sweeping the southern bank of the Ben Hai 
River, De Long's battalion wheeled south and began 
a deliberate search in that direction. Although the 
battalion met no resistance, it did uncover and 
destroy two extensive subterranean bunker com- 
plexes filled with supplies and ordnance. On the 23d 
the advance halted temporarily because of the 
declaration of a cease-fire to be observed throughout 
Vietnam in honor of Buddha's birthday. 

After the brief "stand down," two battalions, the 
3d Battalion, 4th Marines and the 2d Battalion, 26th 
Marines, began sweeping the DMZ to the southwest 
toward the mountains west of Con Thien. The 3d 
Battalion, 9th Marines continued to move northwest 
as the other two battalions moved south. To the east, 
the remaining Hickory battalions resumed search 
and destroy operations in the southern half of the 
DMZ and "Leatherneck Square." 



COMBINED US/ARVN OPERATIONS IN THE DMZ 



29 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188699 
PFC R. L. Crumrine, serving with the 9th Marines in 
Operation Hickory, bows his head in anguish after 
learning one of his closest friends had died fighting 
the North Vietnamese near the Demilitarized Zone . 

Early on the morning of 25 May, Captain John J. 
Rozman's Company H, 26th Marines made contact 
with a large NVA company in a mutually supporting 
bunker complex near Hill 117, three miles west of 
Con Thien. The action was extremely close and 
lasted for more than an hour before Rozman's 
Marines managed to gain fire superiority and 
disengaged to evacuate their casualties. Air and ar- 
tillery then hit the enemy positions. When relieved 
of its casualties, Company H maneuvered north of 
the hill mass where it met Captain John H. 
Flathman's Company K, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines 
at 1345. Both companies moved against the hill. At 
1500 savage fighting developed; the Marines 
estimated the enemy force holding the position to be 
at least several companies. 

When the Marines could not break through the 
strongly fortified position. Lieutenant Colonel 
Masterpool ordered them to disengage so that sup- 
porting arms could again attack the enemy 



positions.* The two Marine companies again at- 
tacked but broke off the action at 1730 and 
established night positions north and west of the 
hill. Results of the day's fighting were 14 Marines 
killed and 92 wounded; the Marines counted 41 
NVA bodies. 

Marine air and artillery pounded the hill all night 
in preparation for the next attack, scheduled for the 
next day. At 0915 on the 26th, enemy automatic 
weapons fire forced down a UH-lE helicopter on a 
reconnaissance flight over the area. Among the 
wounded in the helicopter were Lieutenant Colonel 
Masterpool, his executive officer, and the com- 
manders of Companies H and K; Lieutenant Colonel 
Masterpool and Captain Flathman had to be 
evacuated. Consequently, the battalion delayed the 
attack for another day to allow time for further bom- 
bardment of the hill and command adjustments. On 
the 27th, Companies E and F, 2d Battalion, 26th 
Marines, under the control of Lieutenant Colonel 
Vest's 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, moved against the 
objective behind covering artillery fire. They met no 
resistance and secured the hill by 1600. The 3d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines then passed through Companies 
E and F and consolidated on the ridges leading up to 
the higher ground west of Hill 117. In the mean- 
while, Lieutenant Colonel Duncan D. Chaplin III 
arrived by helicopter to assume command of the 2d 
Battalion, 26th Marines, temporarily under its ex- 
ecutive officer. Major James H. Landers.'* 

During the night. Colonel James R. Stockman, 
the commander of the 3d Marines, initiated heavy 
artillery fires from Con Thien and Gio Linh and us- 
ing the 175mm guns of the Army's 2d Battalion, 
94th Artillery to "literally change the face of the 
earth" on the enemy-held high ground. The follow- 
ing morning, the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines con- 
tinued its westward movement onto the high ground 
without opposition. Lieutenant Colonel Vest's men 
encountered only the extensive destruction of 
numerous fortified positions, apparently abandoned 
by the NVA early in the artillery attack. Colonel 
Stockman then ordered the battalion to move 
toward Con Thien.' 

With the exception of the Hill 117 battle, contact 
diminished during the last days of Operation 



*Operational control of Company K had passed to Colonel 
Masterpool's 2d Battalion, 26th Marines at 1645 on the 25th. 



30 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Hickory and the artillery operations to the east. 
Nevertheless, the Marines found and destroyed 
numerous well-fortified areas before the operation 
terminated on 28 May. In addition, they captured or 
destroyed more than 50 tons of rice and 10 tons of 
ordnance. Total enemy casualties for the combined 
Marine /ARVN operation were 789 killed (the 
equivalent of two NVA battalions), 37 captured, 
and 187 weapons taken. Of this total 447 were killed 
by Marines (85 in Beau Charger, 58 in Belt 
Tight /Hickory, and 304 in Hickory). Allied losses 
for the operation were by no means small; the 
Marines lost 142 killed and 896 wounded, while 
ARVN losses were 22 killed and 122 wounded. 

The first large-scale allied entry into the southern 
half of the DMZ signified that the rules had 
changed. The area was no longer a guaranteed Com- 
munist sanctuary from which they could launch at- 
tacks. More immediately, the operation had upset, 
at least temporarily, the NVA organizational struc- 
ture in the DMZ. The Marines realized that this in- 
itial search and destroy operation would not per- 
manently deny the enemy's use of the area. Never- 
theless, while total friendly control had not been 
established over the region, the removal of the 
civilian population from the area, some 11,000 peo- 
ple, now permitted the Marines complete freedom 
of use of supporting arms. 

Operation Prairie IV Ends 

At the end of Operation Hickory, all participating 
forces joined Operation Prairie IV and continued 
sweeps of "Leatherneck Square" and the area 
southwest of Con Thien. On 28 May, the 3d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines made heavy contact on Hill 174, 
approximately four miles southwest of Con Thien. 
The NVA were in bunkers, similar to the complex 
encountered on Hill 117. Two Companes, M and L, 
attacked late in the afternoon, only to be "blown off 
174"'^ by a heavy volume of fire from enemy small 
arms, automatic weapons, 57mm recoilless rifles, 
and 82mm mortars. Accounting for all personnel 
took much of the night. Results of this initial 
engagement were 2 Marines killed and 21 wounded. 
Known enemy casualties were 4 dead; with another 4 
probably killed. 

The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines called in artillery 
throughout the night; the North Vietnamese 



responded with 82mm mortars. The following day, 
the 29th, Companies M and I, the latter led by 
Lieutenant Walter E. Deese's 1st Platoon, attacked 
up the hill. Despite being hit by friendly 60mm 
mortars, the Marines made contact with the NVA 
defenders around 1600. Enemy resistance remained 
firm; 5 more Marines died, 33 suffered wounds. This 
time, however, the Marines managed to hold posi- 
tions on the western and northern slopes of Hill 174. 
The crest remained in enemy hands. 

On 30 May, I and M Companies attacked again. 
Despite heavy supporting arms fire and the Marines' 
use of flame throwers and 3. 5 -inch rocket launchers, 
the enemy retained control of the hill. Another 
Marine died; 45 were wounded. There were seven 
confirmed enemy dead. The North Vietnamese, 
however, decided to give up the contest. Company 
M reached the crest of Hill 174 on 31 May, meeting 
no resistance.^ 

Operation Prairie IV, the last of the Prairie series 
of operations was over. It, like its predecessors, hurt 
the enemy: 505 died, 8 captured, and 150 weapons 
seized. Friendly losses were 164 killed and 1,240 
wounded. 

On 1 June, Operation Cimarron began in the 
same area and with the same formations. The opera- 
tion lasted through 2 July, producing only light con- 
tact. The Marines discovered and destroyed several 
large, abandoned, fortified positions in the area 
southwest of Con Thien and unit sweeps located 
numerous enemy graves and several supply caches. 

While Cimarron progressed, the land clearing 
project from Con Thien through Gio Linh to the 
high water mark on the coast reached completion by 
1 July. The Marine engineers widened the previously 
cleared area to 600 meters for the entire 13.5 
kilometers of its length. The 1 1th Engineer Battalion 
contributed more than 10,000 man hours and 4,500 
tractor hours to this hazardous effort. 

During the last days of Cimarron a sharp increase 
in enemy artillery activity, coupled with several small 
but intense engagements between patrols and dug- 
in NVA units around Con Thien, indicated that the 
enemy was preparing for renewed offensive opera- 
tions in the area. There was to be much hole digging 
and sandbag filling before the summer ended. 



CHAPTER 4 

The First Battle of Khe Sanh 

The Early Days— Opening Moves of the Battle — Hill 861 -Reinforcing the Hill 861 Attack 
Attacking Hill 881S— The Final Objective: Hill 88lN~End of the Battle — Operation Crockett 



The Early Days 

The war in the northwestern portion of the 3d 
Marine Division's area of operations intensified early 
in 1967. During the spring the NVA gradually in- 
creased its forces around the Marine base at Khe 
Sanh. As the Marines maneuvered to determine the 
enemy's intentions, they became engaged in one of 
the bloodiest battles of the war. 

The Khe Sanh area in western Quang Tri Province 
had been a major inflitration route into South Viet- 
nam for as long as the Vietnamese had been at war. 
That slight but definite plateau, rising abruptly 
from the foothills bordering Laos and Vietnam, is 
dotted with hills and low mountains, providing a 
natural route into the two northern provinces of I 
Corps. The majority of the trails in the more moun- 
tainous area are concealed by tree canopies up to 60 
feet in height, while those on the lower heights are 
hidden by dense elephant grass and bamboo 
thickets. Concealment from aerial observation was 
good and the dense undergrowth limited ground 
observation in most places to no more than five 
meters. Dong Tri Mountain is 1,015 meters high, 
the highest peak in the region. With Hills 861, 881 
North and 881 South, it dominates the three main 
avenues of approach. Two trails enter from the 
northwest. One crosses the Laos-Vietnam border and 
winds southeast along the streams and valleys that 
join the Rao Quan River. The second approach from 
the northwest is a ridgeline that crosses the border to 
merge with Hills 881N, 881S, and 861. The third 
approach is Route 9 from the Laotian border through 
the village of Lang Vei to Khe Sanh. 

American troops first arrived in the area in August 
1962, when a U.S. Army Special Forces detachment 
established a CIDG camp at the small airfield just 
northeast of the village of Khe Sanh. These troops 
engaged in border surveillance and clandestine 



operations to detect and thwart infiltration. 

During the fall of 1966 intelligence reports noted 
increased enemy movement on an east-west trail net- 
work which ran into the region from Laos. As a 
result, III MAF ordered a battalion to be deployed to 
Khe Sanh as part of Operation Prairie L Its mission 
was to prevent Communist occupation, as well as to 
provide security for a detachment from U.S. Naval 
Mobile Construction Battalion (Seabee) 10 which 
was improving the Khe Sanh airfield. 

On the 29th of September, Lieutenant Colonel 
Peter A. Wickwire's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, rein- 
forced by Battery B, 1st Battalion, 13th Marines, 
assumed the Khe Sanh mission and flew by 
helicopters into the position. The Marines occupied 
the key terrain around the airfield and began con- 
struction of defensive positions. Reconnaissance and 
combat patrols searched out to 6,000 meters to 
detect enemy buildup in the area. The battalion 
used the 6,000-meter range because it suspected the 
Communists would bring in 120mm mortars to at- 
tack the complex.* 

As the logistic support for the battalion began to 
arrive at the airfield, the battalion command post, 
the reserve company, and the artillery battery set up 
in the immediate vicinity of the camp complex and 
established a perimeter defense. The Special Forces 
garrison and service support elements received 
responsibility for portions of the perimeter while the 
rifle companies continued to operate from company 
strong points. The battalion then extended the 
patrolling effort out to 10,000 meters and beyond, 
depending upon the size of the patrol.** 



*The 120mm monax's maximum range was 3,700 meters. 
**During December 1966-January 1967 the Special Forces 
Camp was 9,000 meters west near the village of Lang Vei. 



31 



32 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 





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THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



33 



Initially, Battery B, reinforced with two 155mm 
howitzers and two 4. 2 -inch mortars, provided the 
battalion's only immediate artillery support. Late in 
October, additional artillery became available when 
U.S. Army 175mm guns moved into positions at 
Camp Carroll 13 miles to the east. While the fires of 
the 175s augmented the base's defensive plans, they 
normally fired interdiction missions and support of 
Marine reconnaissance units operating from the 
base. 

Air support for the battalion came from three 
UH-34 helicopters assigned to Khe Sanh on a daily 
basis. These aircraft provided routine and emergency 
resupply, evacuation, troop lifts, and reconnaissance 
missions. Additional helicopters and fixed- wing air- 
craft were available on request.* 

As 1967 began, the battalion experienced no 
significant contacts. On 31 January, Operation 
Prairie 1 ended. Wickwire's battalion could claim 
only 15 enemy killed during the four months it had 
participated in Prairie. While the casualty figures for 
the operation were not impressive, the battalion had 
established control of the Khe Sanh Plateau, and the 
extended airstrip provided a terminus from which III 
MAF could challenge the movement of enemy forces 
through the area. 

After Operation Prairie I, III MAF reduced opera- 
tions from Khe Sanh to reconnaissance efforts. As a 
result, when the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines moved to 
Okinawa on 6 February, only a single company, 
Company B, 9th Marines, augmented by a 45-man 
security platoon and Battery I, 12th Marines, re- 
mained to defend Khe Sanh Base.** The mission of 
Captain Michael W. Sayers' company was essentially 
the same as the 1st Battalion's had been: To defend 
the airstrip and patrol the surrounding area out to a 
distance of 15,000 meters. The company also main- 
tained a 30-man force as emergency support for 
Marine reconnaissance patrols operating in the area. 

Poor weather, primarily fog, through February 
hampered the activities of both Captain Sayers' com- 



*The number of helicopters assigned to the Khe Sanh Base 
increased during January to six: two CH-46s, two UH-lEs, and 
two UH-34s. 

**Battery I replaced Battery B/13 on 26 January. Two 
155mm howitzers and the two 4.2-inch mortars reinforced Battery 



pany and the platoon of the 3d Reconnaissance Bat- 
talion working from the base, but reconnaissance 
contacts did indicate an increase in enemy activity. 
Five reconnaissance patrols came under attack from 
NVA units during this period and helicopters ex- 
tracted them under fire. Then, on 25 February, a 
sharp contact occurred only 3,000 meters from the 
airstrip; the days of watchful waiting were over. 

A squad patrol from the 2d Platoon, Company B, 
led by Sergeant Donald E. Harper, Jr., was moving 
up a small hill west of the airstrip when an NVA unit 
opened up with small arms fire, killing one Marine 
and wounding another. The patrol pulled back im- 
mediately and called in artillery fire. When the ar- 
tillery stopped. Harper's squad again moved against 
the enemy position and this time made contact with 
about 50 North Vietnamese. Once more the Marines 
backed off the hill and called in artillery fire. Cap- 
tain Sayers sent a second squad to reinforce Harper's 
patrol. The Marines assaulted the position for the 
third time and after heavy fighting were able to take 
the hill. They found only nine enemy bodies on the 
position, but a search of the area uncovered fire 
direction center equipment, an 82mm mortar, 380 
82mm mortar rounds, 3 mortar base plates, 2 in- 
dividual weapons, some clothing, and 10 enemy 
packs. Friendly losses in the action were one killed 
and 11 wounded.' 

Although the area remained quiet after this sharp 
encounter, an unfortunate incident occurred at Lang 
Vei on the evening of 2 March. Two USAF aircraft 
mistakenly bombed the village, killing 112 civilians, 
wounding 213, and destroying 140 buildings. The 
Marines immediately sent helicopters and trucks to 
the village to help with the evacuation of casualties. 
A KC-130, carrying a group of 1st Marine Aircraft 
Wing personnel especially organized for such events 
and under the command of Major William F. 
Morley, arrived at the airfield and flew out 53 of the 
wounded before weather closed the field. ^ 

The NVA took this opportunity to hit the base 
with more than 90 82mm mortar rounds, killing two 
Marines and wounding 17, while damaging two 
CH-46s and two UH-lEs. Three days later, on the 
5th, 14 enemy soldiers probed the airfield perimeter 
from the north and west. The defending Marines 
detected and drove them off with command- 
detonated claymore mines before they could do any 
damage. 



34 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The 3d Marine Division responded to the increas- 
ed enemy activity by reinforcing Khe Sanh with Cap- 
tain William B. Terrill's Company E, 9th Marines on 
7 March. With the addition of the second company, 
the Marines increased their patrols of the surroun- 
ding area, with particular emphasis given to the 
861-881 hill complex northwest of the base. Recon- 
naissance teams there had made numerous sightings 
during the past few weeks. Patrols and ambushes in 
the area saw signs of enemy activity, but made no 
contact; on 16 March, however, the NVA provided 
the Marines with all the contact they could handle. 

At 1000 on the 16th, the 1st Platoon of Company 
E was returning from a night ambush position on 
Hill 861. As the point squad, under Sergeant 
Donald Lord, moved past some dense bamboo 
bordering the trail, it came under heavy crossfire 
from both sides. The two remaining squads advanc- 
ed to help the point element. After 15 minutes they 
drove the enemy away. The Marines then moved 
back up the hill about 100 meters to a suitable land- 
ing zone to evacuate their casualties, one killed and 
five wounded. Nearing the zone they came under 
heavy fire again; six more Marines died, four suf- 
fered wounds, and one was missing. Another 
firefight started and the Marines directed artillery 
fire against the enemy, but this time the NVA did 
not withdraw. 

In the meantime, two squads of Second Lieute- 
nant Gatlin J. Howell's 2d Platoon, Company B, 
which had been operating about 1,500 meters east of 
Hill 861, received orders to move to help the 1st Pla- 
toon, Company E. As they moved up they came 
under fire from the top of the hill. Air strikes drove 
the enemy from the crest; they left 11 bodies 
behind. Both Marine units moved to the summit 
and began clearing a landing zone (LZ). 

By 1600 the Marines had cleared the LZ and three 
CH-46s were on station to evacuate the casualties. 
The first helicopter landed, and took off, but as the 
second one touched down the NVA hit the zone 
with mortar fire. The CH-46 made its pickup and 
managed to get out of the zone, but the Marines on 
the ground were not as lucky. Both units' corpsmen 
were killed; several other men were wounded. The 
Marines called in artillery fire on suspected enemy 
mortar positions, then requested the helicopter to 
come in to evacuate the new casualties. As the air- 
craft approached the zone, the NVA struck again 
with mortar fire. The helicopter broke away, but the 
exploding rounds caught the Marines who had car- 



ried the wounded out to the LZ and they became 
casualties themselves. Captain Terrill recalled, "The 
platoon commander tried to move the LZ down to 
the reverse slope of the hill, but by this time there 
were not enough able-bodied men in the platoon to 
move all the dead and wounded."* 

At 1705, a helicopter carrying the 3d squad, 2d 
Platoon, Company B attempted to set down in the 
landing zone on the reverse slope, but the CH-46 
overshot the zone and crashed at the base of the hill. 
A second helicopter picked up the squad, but it had 
to return to Khe Sanh because of casualties caused by 
the crash. Then Captain Terrill and the 2d Platoon, 
Company E moved by helicopter into the LZ. The 
new platoon moved to the top of the hill and began 
to bring down the wounded. By 2100, when fog 
stopped helicopter operations, all but three of the 
wounded had been evacuated and by 1300 on the 
17th all the dead and the rest of the wounded had 
been lifted out. The Marines attempted but failed 
to extract the CH-46 that had crashed, forcing Cap- 
tain Terrill's unit to remain at the LZ as security for 
the aircraft. Another helicopter finally lifted the 
damaged one out by 1100 on the 18th and Terrill 
and his Marines, now reinforced by 1st Platoon, 
Company B, began a two-day sweep of the area 
north and west of the hill. The search was to no 
avail; the enemy force had departed. The action on 
the 16th had been costly for the Marines: they suf- 
fered 19 killed and 59 wounded, almost all of whom 
were from Company E. The Marines found the body 
of the missing man the next day. Enemy losses in the 
engagement were only the 11 known killed. 

Immediately after this contact, reconnaissance 
teams operating northwest of the hill complex 
reported several sightings of large enemy forces mov- 
ing southeast. There were several exchanges of small 
arms fire between Marine patrols and small enemy 
units, but in all cases the enemy quickly broke con- 
tact and withdrew. 

Captain Sayers, responsible for the defense of the 
Khe Sanh perimeter, recognized the growing threat 
to the combat base. He expressed his concerns dur- 
ing one of the frequent visits to the base by Brigadier 
General Michael P. Ryan, the commander of 3d 
Marine Division (Forward). General Ryan agreed 
and asked what Sayers needed to defend the base. 
Sayers provided his "shopping list" and, as soon as 
the Marine engineers opened the road from Dong 
Ha to Khe Sanh, General Ryan sent additional 
firepower. Sayers gained a light section of Marine 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



35 



tanks and a heavy section of Ontos. Each of the latter 
mounted six 106mm recoilless rifles, which, with the 
proper ammunition, could be devastating antiper- 
sonnel weapons. Equally deadly were two light sec- 
tions of Army truck-mounted heavy weapons. One 
section had dual 40mm automatic cannon; the other 
had quad-. 50 machine guns. Offsetting these gains, 
however, was the loss of Company E, 9th Marines, 
which, depleted by the fighting on 16 March, 
returned to Dong Ha on 27 March to rebuild.*. 

The reinforcements to the base's firepower seemed 
even more important in the early weeks of April 
when agent reports indicated two NVA regiments 
moving into the region northwest of Khe Sanh. 
These reports and earlier sightings prompted the 
Marines to intensify reconnaissance and patrolling in 
the area. In spite of these efforts, the Marines did 
not determine the full extent of the enemy's 
buildup. 

Allied personnel in the Khe Sanh area numbered 
less than 1,000 men. Among these were the CIDG 
force at Lang Vei and the Marines' Combined Action 
Company Oscar, located between Khe Sanh Village 
and the combat base and within mortar range of the 
latter.* The Khe Sanh combat base housed Com- 
pany B, 9th Marines, reinforced by an aggregation of 
support detachments, and a Marine reconnaissance 
platoon. Organic artillery support for these units 
came from Captain Glen Golden's Battery F, 12th 
Marines, which replaced Battery I on 5 April. While 
the allied forces were too small to be a deterrent to 
major enemy incursions, they did serve as an advance 
warning unit. 

On 20 April, operational control of forces at Khe 
Sanh passed to the 3d Marines which had just begun 
Operation Prairie IV, though Khe Sanh was not in- 
cluded as part of the Prairie IV operational area. 
Rather it was a territorial appendage, attached for 
control purposes to the 3d Marines because that regi- 
ment was in the best position to oversee the base and 
reinforce it if the need arose. The time of need was 
imminent. 



*III MAP created the Combined Action Program to increase the 
ability of the local Vietnamese mihtia units to defend their own 
villages. These units included Marines who lived, worked, and 
conducted operations with their Vietnamese counterparts. The 
company at Khe Sanh formed in February 1967 and was unique in 
that its indigenous forces were Montagnards rather than Viet- 
namese. A more complete coverage of the Q)mbined Action Pro 
gram is contained in Chapter 1 1 . 



Opening Moves of the Battle 

On 23 April, two of Company B's platoons, the 
1st and 3d, were operating from patrol bases north 
and east of Hill 861. Late that afternoon Captain 
Sayers ordered them to link up and establish a night 
position north of the hill in preparation for a sweep 
the following morning of a cave complex located to 
the northwest. 

The morning of the 24th, Second Lieutenant 
Thomas G. King and 30 men from his 2d Platoon, 
with an 81mm mortar section, moved from the air- 
field to Hill 700, south of Hill 861. Their mission 
was to provide additional fire support for a company 
sweep then starting to the northwest. Once the mor- 
tars were in position. First Lieutenant Phillip H. 
Sauer took four men, including a forward observer 
(FO) to the top of Hill 861 to establish an observa- 
tion post.* As the FO team entered a bamboo 
thicket 300 meters from the crest of the hill, it step- 
ped into an enemy ambush. When the NVA opened 
fire the point man yelled, "I'm hit," and went down. 
Lieutenant Sauer ordered the rest of the team to pull 
back and then stood firing at the enemy with his 
pistol to cover their withdrawal. Only the forward 
observer managed to escape. Although the action 
lasted but a few minutes and appeared to be just 
another small unit encounter, it marked the begin- 
ning of the "First Battle of Khe Sanh," one of the 
bloodiest and hardest fought battles of the Vietnam 
War. 5 

Lieutenant King, having lost radio contact with 
the forward observation team but aware of the 
firefight on the hill, sent a squad to investigate. As 
the squad moved forward it came upon the FO, the 
lone survivor of the ambushed team. The squad, ac- 
companied by the FO, moved back into the area of 
contact to recover the other four members of the 
team. They saw two of the bodies but were unable to 
get to them because of heavy enemy fire. The unit 
withdrew to Lieutenant King's mortar position. King 
directed mortar and artillery fire at the hill and then 
took another squad and went back to the ambush 
site. The enemy had gone. The Marines recovered 



*First Lieutenant Sauer was the commander of the Ontos 
heavy section that had recently been attached to Captain Sayer's 
Company B. He accompanied Lieutenant King's unit to assist the 
forward observer. 



36 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



the two bodies seen by the other squad, but after 
searching the area they still could not find the other 
two Marines.* King pulled back and threw a smoke 
grenade to bring in a helicopter to evacuate the two 
bodies. Just as the UH-34's wheels touched the 
ground the whole crest of Hill 861, approximately 
300 meters wide, erupted with automatic weapons 
fire. The infantrymen took cover without casualties, 
but the enemy fire hit the helicopter 35 times in a 
matter of seconds. Two UH-lE gunships escorting 
the UH-34 immediately strafed the hilltop. As the 
enemy fire let up. King's Marines loaded the bodies 
aboard the helicopter, and after it took off King and 
his men returned to the mortar position. 

While the mortars on Hill 700 and the artillery at 
Khe Sanh base shelled the enemy positions. Captain 
Sayers, who had joined King after a forced march 
with a security platoon, ordered his 1st and 3d Pla- 
toons to sweep southeast across Hill 861 and strike 
the enemy from the rear. Sayers' Marines were 
roughly 2,000 meters northwest of their new objec- 
tive. When the two platoons turned toward their 
new direction of advance, five 82mm mortar rounds 
hit, killing one Marine and wounding several others. 
The Marines continued on and the point squad mov- 
ed down the reverse slope of a small knoll until 
halted by heavy fire from its right flank. 

The Marines returned fire in an attempt to gain 
fire superiority. Lance Corporal Dana C. Darnell 
disregarded the enemy fire and brought his 60mm 
mortar into action. Unable to set up the weapon pro- 
perly, he placed the base of the tube in a helmet bet- 
ween his legs and steadied the mortar with his 
hands. The firing quickly heated the tube; another 
Marine kept Darnell's hands from being burned by 
urinating on the mortar tube to cool it. Darnell kept 
firing until he exhausted his immediate supply of 
ammunition. Ignoring the enemy fire, he several 
times gathered additional rounds from nearby 
Marines to keep up his firing.^ 

The enemy answered with its own mortars and the 
Marines moved back over the crest of the hill to find 
cover and call in helicopters to evacuate casualties. 
During the move, Lance Corporal Darnell dragged 
two wounded Marines toward cover until temporari- 



ly blinded by dirt and rock fragments blown into his 
eyes by enemy fire. Within an hour, however, he was 
assisting in the care of the wounded.* 

Helicopter pilots made two attempts to get the 
wounded out, but each time they came in the enemy 
hit the Marine position with mortars and automatic 
weapons, causing more casualties. After the second 
rescue attempt, the Marines received orders to move 
to a more secure position and dig in for the night. ^ 
After expending all of their mortar ammunition on 
Hill 861 and in support of the 1st and 3d Platoons, 
the mortar section, Captain Sayers, and the security 
platoon on Hill 700 moved back to the base just 
before dark on the 24th. There, Captain Sayers, his 
company command group, and the 22-man 2d Pla- 
toon prepared to join the 1st and 3d Platoons by 
helicopter at first light on the 25th. Casualties for 
the first day included 12 Marines killed, 17 wound- 
ed, and 2 missing. There were five known NVA 
dead. 

Captain Sayers' Marines had forced the North 
Vietnamese into the premature revelation of their 
plans to overrun Khe Sanh Combat Base. Their plan 
resembled the one they used so successfully against 
the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In both cases 
the enemy buildup occurred over a period of about a 
month and included the occupation of key terrain. 
Before the main attack, they engaged in a prolonged 
supply staging activity and, just prior to the main at- 
tack, made coordinated attacks against support 
facilities, particularly airfields and lines of com- 
munication. 

After-the-fact reconstruction by General Walt of 
the NVA plans for Khe Sanh indicated that the first 
step was the buildup of troops and supplies in the 
region north of the base. Step two was to be the 
isolation of the base by knocking out the transport 
helicopters based near the coast and by cutting key 
stretches of Route 9. Next, Camp Carroll, Con 
Thien, Dong Ha, Gio Linh, and Phu Bai were to be 
hit with supporting arms, both as a diversion and to 
reduce their ability to provide fire and logistic sup- 
port. A diversionary attack was to be carried out 
against the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp to present 
a threat from that direction . All of these efforts were 
in support of the main attack from the north 
through the Hill 881/861 complex by regimental- 



*These two bodies later were found. They had been 
decapitated and burned. Maj Michael W. Sayers, Comments on 
draft ms, ISMaySl. (Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.). 



*LCpl Darnell, killed in action two days later on the 26th, 
received a posthumous Navy Cross for his actions on the 24th. 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



37 



size units of the 323 C NVA Division*. Fortunately, 
the contact made by Lieutenant Sauer's FO party on 
the morning of the 24th and subsequent action by 
Company B alerted III MAF to enemy intentions. 

Hi// 861 

The job of stopping the NVA fell to Colonel John 
P. Lanigan's 3d Marines. Although Lanigan was 
unaware of it at the time, this assignment was to be 
similar to one 22 years before on Okinawa which 
earned him the Silver Star Medal. Both involved 
driving a determined enemy force off a hill. 

Originally, Colonel Lanigan planned that Com- 
pany K, 3d Marines, would relieve Captain Sayers' 
Company B on 29 April, so liaison personnel were 
already at Khe Sanh when the action began. On the 
morning of the 25th, heavy fog at Khe Sanh delayed 
the arrival by helicopter of the remainder of Com- 
pany K as well as Lieutenant Colonel Gary Wilder 
and his 3d Battalion, 3d Marines command group. 
By the time they arrived. Captain Sayers and his 2d 
Platoon had already departed by helicopter to join 
the rest of Company B. 

There had been no chance for coordination be- 
tween the battalion command group and Company 
B. Inevitably, communications proved difficult since 
Company B did not have the battalion's codes and 
radio frequencies. Captain Sayers, convinced that 
the enemy monitored his transmissions, relayed his 
coded position reports through his company's rear 
command post at Khe Sanh. This problem plagued 
the two units throughout the coming fighting. ^ 

Shortly after landing at Khe Sanh, Lieutenant 
Colonel Wilder started his force moving north to 
assist Company B. By 1500, the lead elements were 
moving up Hill 861. 

When Company K of the 3d Marines reached the 
slopes of Hill 861, its commander. Captain Bayliss L. 
Spivey, Jr., ordered his platoons to move on two 
axes. The 1st Platoon moved up a ridgeline, follow- 
ed by the company command group. The 3d Platoon 
started up another ridgeline to the right. The 2d Pla- 
toon, understrength because one squad was still at- 
tached to another company, remained behind to 



* Apparently the enemy launched all of the diversionary attacks 
on schedule. On 27 and 28 April, the previously mentioned 
Marine positions were hit by 1,200 rockets, mortar, and artillery 
rounds. They cut Route 9 in several places. Other enemy units at- 
tacked and severely battered the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp on 
4 May. The Marines detected and subsequently thwarted only the 
main effort. FMFPac Ops USMC Vn, Apr67, pp. 27-28. 



provide security for the battalion command group 
and the 60mm mortar section. 

Captain Spivey had his forces in position for his 
attack by 1525. Artillery check fire was in effect, 
however. Captain Spivey requested and received per- 
mission to continue up the hill without further ar- 
tillery preparatory fires. 

The 1st Platoon moved upward through the heavy 
growth on the ridgeline. When the platoon was 300 
meters from the crest, it made contact with an 
enemy company. The platoon found itself under 
heavy, grazing fire from well-fortified, expertly con- 
cealed bunkers, as well as from mortars sited on the 
reverse slope of the hill. The vegetation made 
locating the bunkers difficult. Countermortar and 
artillery fire were relatively ineffective in silencing 
the enemy mortars; the grazing fire from the enemy 
automatic weapons and small arms continued from 
the mutally supporting bunkers. 

The 1st Platoon fought its way uphill for about 
200 meters, but by 1730 only about 10 men re- 
mained effective. With darkness fast approaching, it 
was imperative for the company to get more Marines 
on the line. The 3d Platoon could provide no im- 
mediate assistance; its advance up the adjacent 
ridgeline encountered no enemy opposition but the 
rugged terrain slowed its movement. Captain Spivey 
had no option but to ask for the 2d Platoon. Aware 
of the gravity of the situation, the battalion 
assented. 

The 2d Platoon moved forward and quickly 
became engaged in heavy fighting that continued 
until nightfall. Since it could not evacuate its 
casualties, the company spent the night in place; 
Captain Spivey ordered all elements to dig in. The 
battalion command group and 60mm mortar sec- 
tion, located on a small knoll only 300 meters from 
the hill, forced to provide its own security, also dug 
in for the night. ' 

Progress of Company B during the day had been 
equally difficult; it too had no luck evacuating its 
wounded. Each time a helicopter attempted to land, 
it met a screen of enemy small arms and mortar fire. 
One helicopter did get into a nearby zone around 
1000 when the fog lifted, bringing in Captain Sayers 
and the 22 men of the 2d Platoon, but it could pick 
up only three wounded before being driven off by 
incoming mortar rounds. Slowed by numerous litter 
cases and sporadic enemy contact which required the 
seizure of each succeeding ridgeline. Company B 
succeeded in moving only to a point 800 meters 
northwest of Hill 861. 



38 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



As a result of the heavy resistance encountered by 
both companies, Captain Jerrald E. Giles' Company 
K, 9th Marines flew in from Camp Carroll. By 1800 
on the 25th, the company had arrived at Khe Sanh 
base; it remained there for the night. 

At about 0500 on the 26th, the 3d Battalion com- 
mand post (CP) shook under more than 200 82mm 
mortar rounds. At the same time, Khe Sanh base 
was the target of 100 mortar and recoilless rifle 
rounds, most of which, thanks to fog which obscured 
the enemy's aim, landed outside the perimeter. 
While the shelling did not cause any damage, it did 
confirm that the NVA were on Hill 88 IS. The 
Marines replied by hitting suspected enemy posi- 
tions with artillery and air strikes; the NVA fire 
quickly ceased. 

Captain Sayers later recalled: 

. . . B- 1 / 9 was close enough to the NVA recoilless rifles 
to see and hear their backblast in the fog. They were on the 
eastern slope of 88 IS. We directed artillery on the 
recoilless rifles and silenced them. We could hear the 
82mm mortars but couldn't see the muzzle flashes. We 
directed artillery by sound. By [103mm artillery illumina- 
tion rounds] and holes in the fog, we confirmed destruc- 
tion of the recoilless rifles. (The fog was in layers — the hill 
masses were covered and the valleys were clear.)'". 

At 0800 on the 26th, Captain Giles' company 
moved out from the airfield toward Lieutenant 
Colonel Wilder's position, using the rear elements of 
Company B as guides. The company arrived at the 
battalion command post shortly after noon. Spivey's 
Company K had been heavily engaged on Hill 861 
all morning. The enemy unit, fighting from a 
strongly fortified position, repulsed a second Marine 
attempt to take the hill, this time by the 3d Platoon. 
All efforts to break off contact and withdraw failed 
because of numerous casualties. Lieutenant Colonel 
Wilder ordered Captain Giles to send two platoons 
up the hill to help Spivey disengage and evacuate 
the dead and wounded. By 1400, the two companies 
linked up, but, despite the effective use of 
helicopter gunships in a close support role to sup- 
press enemy fire, it was not until 1900 that the last 
Marine elements got off the hill. 

In the meantime, Company B's advance also stop- 
ped. The company had been moving southwesterly 
to skirt Hill 861 and link up with the battalion. As 
the Marines turned south, they met fierce enemy 
resistance. The NVA troops, well-concealed in the 
thick underbrush, allowed the Marines to move to 
within five meters before opening fire, almost cut- 



ting the point man in half. Four or five others, in- 
cluding Captain Sayers and members of the com- 
mand group, received wounds. At the same time, 
the enemy hit the entire column with mortar fire. 
Casualties were heavy. With the aid of gunships and 
artillery, the company finally gained fire superiority 
and at 1200 it broke contact, pulling back to the top 
of a small knoll. There the company attempted to 
evacuate some of its wounded, but as the helicopters 
came into the area the infantrymen waved them off; 
they were helping the NVA mortars to pinpoint the 
Marines' position. At 1445, Captain Sayers reported 
to Lieutenant Colonel Wilder that he had so many 
casualties that he could not move." 

The battalion ordered Captain Sayers to leave his 
dead behind and bring out his wounded. Sayers 
replied that he could not move, even with only the 
wounded. Resupply was impossible, the company 
had only five operational radios, powered by weak 
batteries. Sayers reported he would move into the 
fog, assume a defensive posture, and "... fight until 
it was over."'^ This option proved unnecessary, 
however. 

As Sayers later recalled: 

Captain Glen Golden [the commander of Battery F, 
12th Marines at Khe Sanh] found me in the fog by walking 
artillery rounds to me. (Once in the fog I could only make 
an educated guess as to my exact position.) Artillery put a 
"ring of steel" around my defensive position that was so 
tight we were taking dirt from the impact. It was the most 
professional and accurate piece of artillery work that I have 
ever seen. No doubt it saved our lives. '^ 

Lieutenant Colonel Wilder sent Captain Giles and 
his one remaining platoon to assist Sayers. It took 
Giles' party almost four hours to hack their way to 
the battered company. Under the cover of a heavy 
ground fog, darkness, and periodic downpours, and 
preceded by artillery fire from Battery I, the united 
force began its move toward the battalion CP, 
skirting the south edge of Hill 861. Progress was 
slow. Every man, except the point and rearguard, 
was burdened with stretchers and the equipment of 
the casualties. Sayers remembered: 

We were carrying KlAs and WIAs in ponchos [borne by] 
four men to a litter. The heat deteriorated the bodies 
rapidly and they bloated fast. Almost impossible to carry 
in the dark, the mud, and the rain. Many times we stop- 
ped our march to retrieve a body that had fallen out of a 
poncho and rolled down a hill. Identification was difficult 
[as] KIA tags were lost. . . . not until we arrived back at 
Khe Sanh and matched our company roster with the 
evacuation list was I convinced that we had not left a fellow 
Marine in the hills.''' 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



39 



The weary column arrived at a safe area south of 
the 3d Battahon CP at 0500 on the 27th. Hehcopters 
soon arrived and by 0730 had evacuated all of the 
casualties and salvaged equipment. The remnants of 
Company B refused the offer of trucks to transport 
them back to Khe Sanh; they marched back.^' 

Reinforcing the Hill 861 Attack 

After the fierce action of the morning of the 26th, 
the 3d Marine Division realized the 3d Battalion, 3d 
Marines did not have the strength to carry Hill 861 
alone. Major General Hochmuth shifted the SLF 
Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Delong's 2d Bat- 
talion, 3d Marines back to its parent regiment for the 
Khe Sanh operation. At the time, the battalion had 
been conducting Operation Beacon Star, 16 miles 
north of Hue. Picked up in the middle of the opera- 
tion at noon on 26 April, Delong's battalion flew to 
Phu Bai in helicopters from HMM-l64'^ and then to 
Khe Sanh by transport aircraft. By 1600, companies 
E, G, and H and the battalion command group had 
arrived at the Khe Sanh Combat Base and started 
moving toward Hill 861. The battalion established 
night positions approximately 500 meters east of 
Wilder's battalion. 

The 27th was a day of preparation. By 1130, the 
3d Battalion had completed all its medical evacua- 
tions and moved overland from Hill 861 to Khe 
Sanh base for replacements for its battle-depleted 
companies. Colonel Lanigan transferred both Com- 
panies M of the 3d Marines and 9th Marines to 
Wilder's battalion in relief of Companies K, 3d 
Marines, and B, 9th Marines, which had sustained 
the heaviest casualties. Company F, the remaining 
company of the SLF battalion, arrived and assumed 
the mission of regimental reserve. Battery B, 12th 
Marines, the SLF artillery battery, arrived at 1900 
and was ready to fire by 2050. By the end of the day. 
Battery B and Battery F, the resident artillery unit at 
Khe Sanh, had established an organization that per- 
mitted them to function as an artillery group, with 
one battery in direct support of each battalion. The 
two 155mm howitzers and two 4. 2 -inch mortars at- 
tached to Battery F assumed the general support mis- 
sion for the operation. 

Artillery and air took on the job of softening up 
the objective area. For the better part of the 27th 
and 28th of April, the Khe Sanh artillery group and 
the Army's 175mm guns, further east, poured tons 
of high explosives onto Hill 861. During the two-day 
period, artillerymen fired more than 1,800 rounds of 



observed fire and 270 of harassment and interdic- 
tion, but the preponderance of support came from 
the air. During this period, the 1st Marine Aircraft 
Wing dropped 518,700 pounds of ordnance on the 
target area. As each flight arrived on station, the 
Marine and Air Force airborne forward air con- 
trollers, (FAC[A]) directed them to orbit on the top 
of a large holding pattern. The flights gradually 
worked their way downward as preceding flights 
dropped their ordnance and headed for home. 

To destroy the solidly built and well-camouflaged 
bunkers, the FACs devised a new technique. Many 
of the bunkers were so thick that even a direct hit 
with a 500-pound bomb would not completely 
destroy them. Napalm was ineffective until the 
jungle growth was cleared because the jellied 
gasoline burned out in the treetops. Consequently, 
aircraft armed with 250- and 500-pound "snakeye" 
bombs were called in on low runs to ripple their 
loads, stripping the trees and heavy foilage from the 
hill.* With the bunkers exposed, other aircraft arm- 
ed with 750-, 1,000-, and 2,000-pound bombs came 
in on high-angle passes to destroy the bunkers. 

Late in the afternoon of the 28th, the Marine in- 
fantrymen were ready to resume the attack. The con- 
cept of operations involved a two-battalion assault; 
Hill 861 became Objective 1, Hill 88lS was Objec- 
tive 2, and Hill 88 IN was Objective 3. From its posi- 
tion south of Hill 861, Lieutenant Colonel Delong's 
2d Battalion was to seize Objective 1 on 28 April. 
Lieutenant Colonel Wilder's 3d Battalion was to 
follow the 2d Battalion. After taking the first objec- 
tive, Wilder's Marines were to turn west, secure the 
ground between Hill 861 and 881S, then assault Ob- 
jective 2 from the northeast. As the 3d Battalion at- 
tacked, the 2d Battalion was to consolidate Objective 
1, then move out toward Hill 88 IN, screening 
Wilder's right flank, reinforcing it if necessary. After 
securing Objectives 1 and 2 Delong's battalion was 
to seize Objective 3, Hill 881N. 

After the preparatory fire lifted, the 2d Battalion 
assaulted Hill 861 with two companies abreast. The 
Marines moved up the hill against sporadic mortar 
fire, but met no other resistance; the NVA had 
withdrawn. Both assault companies dug in on the 



*The "snakeye" is a 250- or 300-pound bomb with large tail fins 
that unfold after release to retard the descent of the bomb. For 
greater accuracy, it was dropped at a low altitude. The slow 
parabolic trajectory of the "Snakeye" gives the aircraft time to 
clear the blast and fragmentation pattern. 



40 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



objective while the command group and the reserve 
company took up positions on the southern slope of 
the hill. A search of the objective revealed that the 
enemy's withdrawal had been professional; the area 
was well policed, with no equipment or anything of 
intelligence value left behind. Though the NVA 
withdrawal had been orderly, it had not been 
without cost; the strong odor of dead bodies 
saturated the area. Supporting arms had done a 
thorough job. The hill was heavily fortified with 25 
bunkers and more than 400 fighting holes, all 
mutually supporting, but the Marines took the hill 
without losing a man. Bombs and artillery had strip- 
ped most of the vegetation, leaving only charred and 
splintered trees. 

Attacking Hill 88 IS 

After Hill 861 was secured, the 3d Battalion, com- 
posed of Companies M, 3d Marines and K and M, 
9th Marines moved from Khe Sanh to take positions 
on the west flank of the 2d Battalion. A small hill 
mass, 750 meters northeast of Hill 881S, was the bat- 
talion's intermediate objective. Lieutenant Colonel 
Wilder planned to secure the intermediate objective 
the next day, as a jumping off point for the assault 
on Objective 2, Hill 88 IS. 

Early in the morning of 29 April the battalion 
started its advance, with Company M, 9th Marines as 







Marine Corps Historical Collection 
Sgt R. E. Ferdeit, armed with a shotgun, keeps a 
wary eye out for North Vietnamese soldiers as the 2d 
Battalion, 5 d Marines completes its preparations on 
30 April for an assault on Hill 881 S near Khe Sanh. 



the lead element. At 1120, the point engaged an 
enemy platoon in a small draw. The company 
deployed, took the platoon under fire, and called for 
artillery and air support. At the same time, the 
second element of the battalion column, Company 
M, 3d Marines, passed south of the firefight, conti- 
nuing the attack toward the battalion objective. 

At 1915, Company M, 3d Marines secured the in- 
termediate objective with no contact, and dug in for 
the night. Shortly after occupying the position, the 
company spotted North Vietnamese soldiers emplac- 
ing mortars on Hill 881S. The company called in ar- 
tillery, and the enemy fired only four rounds before 
being dispersed. An hour later, the Marines spotted 
more North Vietnamese moving toward their 
perimeter. Although it was dark by then, the FO 
with Company M adjusted variable time (VT) fuzed 
artillery fire on the enemy's position.* As the rounds 
exploded over their heads showering the enemy with 
fragments, screams of the wounded could be heard. 
The NVA force quickly withdrew and the Marines 
passed the rest of the night without incident. 

At first light on 30 April, while Wilder's battalion 
prepared to assault Hill 88 IS, Delong's battalion 
moved off Hill 861, along a ridgeline toward Hill 
88 IN. Its mission was to clear the area on Wilder's 
right flank, and to secure positions for a final assault 
on Objective 3, Hill 881N. Company H, 3d Marines 
moved into the area where Company M, 9th Marines 
had made contact the previous day. As soon as it 
entered the area, the company ran into two NVA 
platoons in a bunker complex. After a brief, vicious 
firefight, the Marines backed off to evacuate 
casualties, 9 dead and 43 wounded, of whom 
helicopters evacuated 29 while artillery and air work- 
ed over the enemy positions. Later that afternoon. 
Company G assaulted the bunker complex and after 
heavy preparation fires, the Marines overran the 
position. 

The men of Company G, like those of Company 
H, knew that they had been up against a tough and 
well-disciplined foe. Staff Sergeant Ruben Santos, 
platoon sergeant of the 1st Platoon, witnessed the 
tenacity of the defending North Vietnamese. One of 



*VT fuze detonates an artillery round several meters above the 
ground, thus increasing the fragmentation pattern and effective 
kill radius. Air bursts are especially effective against troops in the 
open or in unprotected positions such as foxholes and open tren- 
ches. 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



41 



his squads found two enemy soldiers in a bunker. 
The Marines threw in several hand grenades killing 
one man, but the other grabbed a grenade and sat 
on it to smother the blast. Although the explosion 
"blew his ass off," it did not kill him. When one of 
the Marines went into the bunker to clear it, the 
enemy soldier shot and wounded him. Sergeant San- 
tos grabbed the Marine and tried to drag him to safe- 
ty but the NVA soldier fired another burst into the 
Marine, killing him. Santos tried to flush the enemy 
soldier from the bunker by throwing in tear gas but 
he still would not come out. The Marines then threw 
fragmentation grenades in until they were sure that 
he was dead. Sergeant Santos later said, "... there 
was no way of getting them out . . . unless you drag- 
ged them out after they were dead."'^ 

The Marines of the 3d Battalion learned the same 
lesson before the day was over. The strength and 
dispositions of the NVA forces on Hill 88 IS were 
unclear on the morning of the 30th. Thirty-three air- 
craft sorties had slammed 250 2,000-pound bombs 
into the positions on the evening of the 29th and 
over 1,300 rounds of artillery rained down on the hill 
during the night. At 0800, as the last rounds of the 
preparation fires hit, the Marines of Wilder's bat- 
talion began their assault. 

The rough and broken terrain restricted the ap- 
proach to the ridge; the Marines could not 
maneuver. The 3d Battalion jumped off in the at- 
tack against the hill from the northeast with Com- 
pany M, 3d Marines in the lead, followed by Com- 
pany K, 9th Marines. By 1025, the lead platoon 
reached the western end of the top of the hill after 
encountering only occasional small arms fire. A se- 
cond platoon moved up and the two companies 
closed on the enemy. Suddenly the NVA struck back 
with automatic weapons in camouflaged bunkers 
and with accurate sniper fire from the trees. Thirty 
mortar rounds fell on the attacking platoons. They 
were stuck, unable to move forward or backwards. 
NVA infantrymen from bypassed bunkers and holes 
blocked the way back down the hill. Company K 
and the remaining platoon of Company M advanced 
into the savage firefight. "Huey" (UH-lE) gunships 
and attack aircraft streaked in, covering the enemy 
positions with ordnance as close as 50 meters from 
the Marines. At 1230, Lieutenant Colonel Wilder 
ordered both companies to disengage and pull back 
off the hill, but it took several hours to break con- 
tact. When they did move back down the hill, the 



Marines were able to carry their wounded with them, 
but not their dead. The cost had been high: 43 
Marines died and 109 suffered wounds. Heavy 
casualties rendered Company M temporarily ineffec- 
tive as a fighting unit. 

The cost was even greater to the enemy. Marine 
infantry, artillery, and air strikes killed 163. Marine 
aircrews flew 118 sorties and the Khe Sanh artillery 
group fired 1,685 rounds that day, but it had not 
been enough. More supporting arms preparation fire 
was needed before the hill could be assaulted again. 

The next day the air space over Khe Sanh was 
stacked high with Marine aircraft; 166 sorties attack- 
ed hills 881N and 881S. Over 650,000 pounds of 
ordnance, including 130 2,000-pound bombs and 
1,445 artillery rounds, plastered both hills. On one 
occasion, the constant bombardment of Hill 88 IS 
became too much for the enemy to endure. After 
three very heavy airstrikes, one enemy platoon ran 
from its bunkers. Once the NVA soldiers were in the 
open, they came under fire by aircraft, as well as 
mortar and small arms fire from Wilder's battalion. 
Most died before they could escape. By the end of 
the day close air support pilots reported 140 more 
enemy killed, including 81 killed by a single strike 
west of the battle area. 

While Hill 88 IS was being pounded, the 3d Bat- 
talion remained on its intermediate objective north- 
east of 88 IS, reorganizing its companies. At 1200, 
Company M, 3d Marines relinquished position to 
the regimental reserve, Company F, 2d Battalion, 3d 
Marines.* The depleted Company M returned to 
Khe Sanh and flew to Dong Ha that evening. 

With the reserve committed, Major General 
Hochmuth transferred Company E, 9th Marines to 
the control of the 3d Marines and by 1910, 1 May, 
the company was in position at Khe Sanh. During 
the day both battalions brought up their 
"Mule"-mounted 106mm recoilless rifles to assist in 
the reduction of enemy bunkers and fortifications by 
direct fire.** 



*Captain Raymond H. Bennett, who was ashore from one of 
the carriers in the Gulf of Tonlcin on a 30-day indoctrination 
assignment, temporarily commanded Gjmpany M. 

**The "Mule" is a small, rough terrain vehicle, primarily used 
for resupply. It is the standard platform and transportation for the 
106mm recoilless rifle, an antitank weapon. 



42 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Marine Corps Historical Collection 

The 2d Battalion, 5 d Marines used its 106mm recoilless rifles to destroy North Viet- 
namese bunkers on Hill 88 IS prior to the 5d Battalion s final assault on the hill, 2 May. 



The 3d Battalion was ready to go again on the 
morning of the 2nd, and after a final artillery 
preparation, the 9th Marines' Companies M and K 
moved out against Hill 881S. By 1420, the Marines 
had secured the hill, having encountered only sniper 
fire in the process. That evening Lieutenant Colonel 
Wilder established his CP on 88 IS and dug in for 
the night with two assault companies. Company F, 
the most recent arrival, remained behind on the in- 
termediate objective. The Marines, at last, had the 
opportunity to see what they had run up against on 
the 30th. 

The enemy had dug about 250 bunkers on the 
hill; after four days of heavy air strikes and artillery 
preparation fire, 50 remained. Wire communica- 
tions connected the bunkers and they mutually sup- 
ported each other with interlocking fields of fire. 
Two layers of logs and as much as five feet of dirt 
covered small bunkers, leaving only a small two-foot 
opening. Larger fortifications, capable of holding 
four men, were equipped with small storage shelves, 
bamboo mat floors, and a simple but effective 
drainage system. The largest dugouts, command 
posts, had two entrances and roofs covered by four to 



eight layers of logs, in addition to 4 feet of dirt on 
top of the logs. The extent of the fortifications on 
88 IS caught the Marines by surprise, but their 
discovery alerted Delong's battalion as to what to ex- 
pect on Hill 881N. 

The Final Objective: Hill 881N 

With Hill 88 IS secured, the Marines turned their 
attention to Objective 3, Hill 88 IN. Since 28 April, 
when the battalion took Hill 861, Lieutenant Col- 
onel Delong's Marines had been sweeping the area 
northwest of the hill, checking out each successive 
ravine and ridgeline. By the morning of 2 May the 
battalion was ready to move against 881N. At 1015, 
the action began with Company E attacking the hill 
from the south and Company G assaulting from the 
east. Company H was in a supporting position bet- 
ween the two units. Company G made contact 
almost immediately and after a brief firefight pulled 
back to employ artillery fire. After the artillery at- 
tack, the company moved in, but again came under 
automatic weapons and mortar fire. Additional 
Marine supporting arms silenced the enemy. Com- 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



43 



pany H, moving to a position to support Company 
G, also came under enemy mortar attack which 
ceased when Company G called in fire support re- 
quests. At the same time, Company E battered its 
way almost to the top of the hill. Suddenly, a heavy 
rain squall driven by gusts up to 40 miles per hour 
lashed the hills. Lieutenant Colonel Delong, realiz- 
ing that control was impossible and that the coor- 
dinated assault by his units could not be made, pull- 
ed the battalion back to more defensible terrain for 
the night. 

A strong enemy counterattack, early in the morn- 
ing of 3 May disrupted Marine plans to continue the 
assault. At 0415, Company E, in night positions on a 
small hill 500 meters south of Hill 88 IN, endured 
small arms and mortar fire followed by an aggressive 
ground attack. Two reinforced NVA companies 
struck the Marines' perimeter from the northeast 
and, after bitter hand-to-hand fighting, penetrated 
that portion of the defenses. The attackers either 
killed or wounded all Marines in this area. After 
penetrating the lines, the NVA units moved into a 
tree line in the middle of the position and reoc- 



cupied some of the bunkers which the engineers had 
not yet destroyed. 

About 10 minutes after the first attack. First 
Lieutenant Frank M. Izenour, Jr., whose platoon 
held the western half of the perimeter, received 
orders to take a squad to attempt to seal off the 
penetration. With his second squad, the lieutenant 
moved forward, but immediately came under fire 
from two machine guns which hit several of his men. 
Lieutenant Izenour reported that he needed rein- 
forcements. Company commander Captain Alfred 
E. Lyon did not want to weaken the 1st Platoon fur- 
ther so he organized 11 attached engineers as a 
squad and sent them into the fight. Both squads 
took positions on the left edge of the penetration 
and fired into the enemy's flank. With the help of 
artillery, gunships, and jets, the Marines stalled the 
attack, but the platoon commander still did not have 
enough force to drive the enemy out of the penetra- 
tion.'* 

A flareship arrived and its two-million- 
candlepower parachute flares practically turned 
night into day. From Hill 88 IS, the Marines of the 



This well constructed, log-reinforced North Vietnamese Army bunker on Hill 881 
South, its embrasure hidden among the deep shadows around the base, remained fully 
intact despite a bomb explosion in April that left a large crater just over 10 feet away. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A800216 



i.^:^JM^. 







44 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



3d Battalion could see approximately 200 NVA 
soldiers moving toward Company E from the west. 
They quickly moved the battalion's 106mm recoilless 
rifles into positions and fired more than 100 rounds 
into the enemy's flank, breaking up the attack. Then 
artillery pounded the North Vietnamese force as it 
withdrew. 

By first light, the Marines had shattered the NVA 
attack, but some enemy soldiers still remained inside 
Company E's position. At 0700, Company F reverted 
to the operational control of its parent unit, the 2d 
Battalion, 3d Marines. From its position on the 3d 
Battalion's intermediate objective, one platoon of 
the company flew in helicopters from HMM-164 to a 
landing zone next to the Company E perimeter. The 
reinforcing unit immediately attacked the southern 
edge of the penetration. In the meantime, Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Delong ordered Company H to close 
in on the enemy's rear from the northeast. Moving 
toward each other the two units finally managed to 
seal the breach. 

Company H then began the difficult task of 
eliminating the NVA soldiers in the bunkers and 
tree line. The effort required bitter dose-quarters 
fighting which continued until 1500 when the com- 
pany reported the final bunker cleared. The NVA 
soldiers fought virtually to the last man. The NVA 
attack killed 27 Marines in the action and wounded 
84, but enemy bodies covered the area. The NVA at- 
tackers left behind 137 dead, and the Marines cap- 
tured three prisoners, plus a large quantity of 
weapons and equipment. 

Interrogation of the prisoners revealed the enemy 
planned another attack for that night. As a result, 
Lieutenant Colonel Delong consolidated his com- 
panies on the southern slope of Hill 881N and 
established a tight perimeter defense. After dark, 
helicopters from HMM-164 flew in extra defensive 
equipment, including concertina wire, trip flares, 
and Claymore mines. The Marines were ready for the 
assault, but the attack failed to materialize. Instead 
an NVA unit hit the Special Forces Camp at Lang 
Vei 10 kilometers to the southeast. ^^ 

At 0435, 4 May, a reinforced NVA company 
assaulted the Lang Vei camp. The attack was to have 
served as a diversion for the major NVA thrust from 
the northwest which the Marines had preempted on 
24 April. The action had a little effect on the battle 
taking place in the hills, but was a tactical victory for 
the Communists. The NVA attackers quickly over- 
ran the camp's defenses and penetrated to the heart 



of the compound. There, they destroyed vital in- 
stallations and killed many key personnel, including 
the U.S. Army Special Forces detachment com- 
mander and his executive officer. Despite artillery 
fire from the Marines at Khe Sanh, the attackers 
withdrew with only light casualties. The South Viet- 
namese irregulars defending Lang Vei were not as 
lucky; 20 died and another 39 disappeared. To 
counter any further threats from the southwest, the 
3d Marine Division ordered Company C, 1st Bat- 
talion, 26th Marines, airlifted from Phu Bai later in 
the afternoon of 4 May and added to the Khe Sanh 
reserve. 

The next morning Lieutenant Colonel Delong's 
Marines advanced toward the final objective. Hill 
88 IN. His three companies had spent most of 4 May 
reorganizing, while additional preparatory fires 
blasted the hill. At 1530, the battalion moved into 
assault positions on the southern slopes of the objec- 
tive. At 0850 5 May, Companies E and F jumped 
off, meeting gradually increasing resistance as they 
advanced. Both units temporarily disengaged so that 
air and artillery could again work over the hill. At 
1300, Company F resumed the attack while Com- 
pany E established a base of fire and Company G 
enveloped the north. The two attack Companies, F 
and G, met only sniper fire and secured the objective 
at 1445. The Khe Sanh hill complex belonged to the 
Marines. 

End of the Battle 

For the next three days, there was little contact 
with NVA units. Both battalions thoroughly search- 
ed Hills 881N and 881S, while engineers destroyed 
the remaining enemy fortifications. Marine aircraft 
struck suspected enemy positions to the north and 
west, while platoon patrols covered the area im- 
mediately west of the two hills. Airborne observers 
remained on station to call in artillery and air strikes 
on likely avenues of escape. Air support achieved a 
unique first during the period. An AO sighted a 
lone NVA soldier waving a flag, indicating his desire 
to surrender. A helicopter flew in and picked up the 
rallier. 

Observers spotted enemy troops to the northwest. 
The sightings indicated that the 525CNVA Division 
was withdrawing toward North Vietnam and Laos. 
On 9 May, a patrol of two platoons of Company F 
finally caught up with one of the evading enemy 
units. The patrol had just swept down the northern 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



43 



finger of Hill 778, 3,200 meters northwest of Hill 
88 IN, when it ran into sniper fire from a ridgeline to 
its front. The lead element deployed on line and 
started up the slope, only to be met pointblank by a 
heavy fusillade. The action remained furious for 20 
minutes as the Marines tried to gain fire superiority 
and call in artillery fire. 

Getting artillery support was not an easy matter. 
Company F's forward observer. Second Lieutenant 
Terrence M. Weber, tried feverishly to contact Khe 
Sanh Fire Support Control Center; apparently it was 
out of radio range. Finally, Weber raised another 
Marine unit which relayed his fire requests. About 
30 minutes after the firefight started, the North 
Vietnamese began to disengage and withdraw. As 
they pulled back, artillery and gunships tore into the 
enemy ranks. The battalion ordered Company E, 
south of the engagement, to go to Company F's aid. 
Company E's 60mm mortar hit the right flank of the 
NVA unit. The battalion also sent two 81mm mor- 
tars, two 106mm recoilless rifles, and a security pla- 
toon by helicopters to Company E's position. As a 
result of the rapid reaction by reinforcing units and 
supporting arms fire, the enemy's orderly withdrawal 
turned into flight. ^° 

When the fighting ended, the Marines counted 31 
NVA bodies in the area. A search of the position un- 
covered large amounts of equipment and rice as well 
as 203 freshly dug graves. The bitter fighting cost the 
Marines 24 dead and 19 wounded, most of whom 
became casualties in the opening minutes of the bat- 
tle. Bad weather prevented a withdrawal, so Com- 
panies E and F set up a defensive perimeter and pass- 
ed the night without further contact. 

To the west, another encounter between a seven- 
man reconnaissance team from the 3d Recon- 
naissance Battalion and an enemy company marked 
the last significant action of the operation. 
Helicopters inserted Reconnaissance Team Breaker at 
1650 on 9 May. Shortly after midnight it became 
heavily engaged. The enemy easily could have over- 
run the outnumbered Marines, but they chose 
not to do so. Apparently they were more interested 
in shooting down helicopters attempting to extract 
the team. The heroic performance of 18-year-old 
Private First Class Steve D. Lopez highlighted the ac- 
tion. Wounded four times, twice in the head, the 
young Marine remained on his radio for 12 hours, 
calling in artillery and air strikes practically on top of 



his own position. In addition, he killed several 
enemy soldiers at close quarters with his M-16.^' 

Helicopters made two attempts during the night 
to extract the team and another in the early morn- 
ing; all three failed because of heavy ground fire. At 
1145, they made a fourth try. After sealing off the 
area with fixed-wing and gunship coverage, a UH-lE 
landed and picked up the three survivors. Four 
members of the reconnaissance team and one 
helicopter pilot died in the action, as did a known 
total of seven enemy soldiers. 

This action ended the First Battle for Khe Sanh, 
one of the finest examples of an air-ground team ef- 
fort during the war. The men of the 3d Marines 
fought a conventional infantry battle against a well- 
entrenched NVA force. Although aggressive infantry 
assaults finally took the various objectives, much of 
the credit for overwhelming the enemy force belongs 
to the supporting arms. The 1st Marine Aircraft 
Wing flew more than 1,100 sorties, expending over 
1,900 tons of ordnance during the operation. Air at- 
tacks proved particularly effective in uncovering and 
destroying enemy bunkers and fortifications. While 
Marine air provided all the close and direct air sup- 
port for the operation, 23 U.S. Air Force B-52 strikes 
hit enemy troop concentrations, stores, and lines of 
communications. Artillery also provided a large 
share of combat support, especially during the many 
periods of reduced visibility. Artillery units fired 
more than 25,000 rounds in support of their com- 
rades on and around the Khe Sanh hills. 

The battle was also the first major test of the M-16 
rifle by the Marine Corps. Opinions of the results 
were mixed. The light weight of the rifle and the 
ability of the troops to carry more ammunition than 
with previous rifles were important positive factors. 
One Marine officer attributed the success of the final 
assault on Hill 881 to the M-l6s used by the attack- 
ing Marines. Others, however, strongly criticized the 
weapon for a tendency to jam. 2^* 

The First Battle for Khe Sanh did not turn into the 
spectacular victory that the North Vietnamese 
desired. Reported enemy casualties in the action 
from 24 April through 1 1 May stood at 940 confirm- 
ed killed. The cost of stopping the Communist effort 
was not light; 155 Marines died and another 425 suf- 
fered wounds. 



*See Chapter 14 for a discussion of tiie problems with the M-16 
and the efforts to correct them. 



46 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Operation Crockett 

With the enemy threat in the area reheved for the 
time being, Lieutenant General Walt began reduc- 
ing forces at Khe Sanh. From 11-13 May, the 1st Bat- 
talion, 26th Marines replaced the two battalions 
from the 3d Marines and, at 1500 on the 13th, Col- 
onel JohnJ. Padley, commanding officer of the 26th 






Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188672 

The 26th Marines constantly patrolled the area 
around Khe Sanh after the beginning of Operation 
Crockett in mid-May. This patrol from Company A 
climbs through rugged terrain near Hill 881 North 
that had been blasted by several earlier air strikes. 



Marines, assumed responsibility for Khe Sanh from 
Colonel Lanigan.* 

The mission assigned to Colonel Padley's Marines 
was to occupy key terrain, deny enemy access into 
the vital areas, conduct aggressive patrolling in order 
to detect and destroy enemy elements within the 
TAOR, and provide security for the base and adja- 
cent outposts. Colonel Padley was to support the 
Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei with his organic ar- 
tillery, as well as to coordinate all activities of allied 
units operating in the area. The code name for 
Marine operations in the Khe Sanh TAOR was 
Operation Crockett. 

To accomplish the mission, the 1st Battalion, 26th 
Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Donald 
E. Newton, stationed one company each on Hill 
88 IS and 861; a security detachment on Hill 950 at a 
radio relay site; and the remainder of the battalion at 
the base, acting both as base security and battalion 
reserve. The units at the company outposts patrolled 
continuously within a 4,000-meter radius of their 
positions. Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Bat- 
talion, operating from Khe Sanh, inserted recon- 
naissance teams at greater ranges to provide long- 
range surveillance. Although numerous sightings 
and reports indicated that all three regiments of the 
325 C NVA Division were still in the tri- border 
region, there was only occasional contact during 
May. 

As June began, there was a sharp increase in the 
number of sightings throughout the Crockett 
TAOR. At 0101 6 June, twenty-five 120mm mortar 
rounds and 102mm rockets hit the base. One hour 
later the radio relay site on Hill 950 came under at- 
tack from the west and northeast by an unknown 
number of enemy soldiers. The enemy penetrated 
the position, but the defending Marines quickly 
forced them to withdraw, leaving 10 dead, one 
wounded, and seven weapons. Marine losses in the 
action were six killed and two wounded. The next 
afternoon, mortar and small-arms fire hit a patrol 
from Company B, approximately 2,000 meters west 
of Hill 88 IS. The mortar attack immediately preced- 
ed an assault by about 40 NVA troops. The Marines 



*The official designation of the unit at Khe Sanh was the 26th 
Marines (Forward). It consisted of one battalion and a small 
regimental headquarters. The other two 26th Marines battalions 
were in Vietnam, but under the control of other units. The 
regimental tear headquarters remained on Okinawa. 



THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



47 



repulsed the enemy charge and called artillery in on 
the attackers. A platoon from Company A arrived by 
helicopter to help. By 1630, when the enemy 
withdrew, the two Marine units had killed 66 North 
Vietnamese and lost 18 of their own men. Twenty- 
eight Marines suffered wounds. 

Two days later the enemy shot down an armed 
UH-lE in the same area, killing the pilot and woun- 
ding the copilot. Friendly forces rescued the copilot 
and two crew members, but the aircraft had to be 
destroyed. Due to the increasing number of enemy 
contacts, Lieutenant Colonel Kurt L. Hoch's 3d Bat- 
talion, 26th Marines returned to the operational con- 
trol of the 26th Marines (Forward) at Khe Sanh; the 
battalion arrived at Khe Sanh on the 13th. 

During the two weeks after the 3d Battalion's ar- 
rival, both Marine battalions had many contacts with 
isolated enemy forces throughout the TAOR. In the 
early morning of the 27th, 50 82mm mortar rounds 
hit the Khe Sanh base. The attack was extremely 



costly to the Marines; it killed nine and wounded 
125. Another attack occurred at 0525 by 50 102mm 
rockets. Casualties resulting from the second attack 
totaled one killed and 14 wounded. The Marines' ar- 
tillery answered both attacks with unknown results. 

At 1230 on 27 June, Company I, 26th Marines, 
while searching for a suspected mortar position to 
the west of the base, ran into two NVA companies. 
Company L landed by helicopter to reinforce the 
engaged Marines. By 1900 the NVA broke contact 
and withdrew to the northwest leaving 35 bodies on 
the battlefield. This was the last significant action 
during June. 

Operation Crockett continued as a two- battalion 
effort until it ended the l6th of July. During the Ju- 
ly period of the operation there was a gradual in- 
crease in the number of sightings, but only occa- 
sional contact. Nevertheless, the Marines knew the 
NVA was not ready to abandon the Khe Sanh area. 



Following the battles of April and May for the Khe Sanh area, shell-scarred Hill 881 
South, shown here in an aerial view, became a combat base for a 26th Marines company. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189356 



yffip% 




PART II 

SPRING FIGHTING IN 

SOUTHERN I CORPS 



CHAPTER 5 

The War in Southern I Corps 

The Situation — Operation Desoto — Deckhouse /Desoto — Desoto Continued 
Operation Union — Union 11 



The Situation 

The buildup of regular NVA forces along the 
DMZ attracted command attention, but the fighting 
there was only one segment of the I Corps-Ill MAF 
campaign. The 1st Marine Division, in the southern 
portion of the III MAF zone of operations, was 
fighting a three-pronged war. Marine operations of 
battalion size or larger extended to the outer 
periphery of the division's TAOR to destroy North 
Vietnamese units and Viet Cong main forces and 
base areas, while company-size and smaller 
counterguerrilla operations sought to protect both 
allied installations and the civil population. At the 
same time, the division provided support for the 
Vietnamese Government Revolutionary Develop- 
ment Program which was trying to neutralize the 
guerilla infrastructure. 

The area of responsibility of Major General Her- 
man Nickerson, Jr.'s 1st Marine Division consisted of 
the three southernmost provinces of I Corps: Quang 
Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai. This area was 
important for diverse reasons. It contained a large 
population, was a rich rice-producing basin, and was 
a major source of salt.* Furthermore, the tree- 
covered foothills of the Annamite Mountains jutting 
into the coastal plain and the numerous rivers pro- 
vided the enemy with natural access to the area. 

Forty-three large unit operations, involving a force 
of at least a battalion, were conducted in southern I 
Corps during the first six months of 1967. In addi- 
tion, thousands of small unit operations abetted the 
larger "sweeps." During the first three months of the 
year, for example, the 1st Marine Division carried 
out no less than 36,553 company-size operations, 
patrols, and ambushes in the Da Nang Tactical Area 
alone. 



*Salt had traditionally been a medium of barter and a taxable 
commodity in Vietnam. Moreover, the hot climate of Vietnam 
makes its use a dietary necessity. 



These small unit actions occasionally were hard- 
fought battles with the Viet Cong. One such occur- 
red on 31 January during a patrol approximately 15 
kilometers southwest of Da Nang by Company H, 
2d Battalion, 1st Marines, commanded by Captain 
Edward J. Banks. Just before noon, as the company 
approached the hamlet of Thuy Bo, located im- 
mediately west of the north-south railroad, it came 
under heavy fire from a Viet Cong main-force bat- 
talion. The latter's armament included .50-caliber 
and other automatic weapons which hit several 
Marines in the lead platoon. The casualties mounted 
as the enemy gunners' fire found the Marines taking 
shelter behind low rice paddy dikes. Evacuation of 
the dead and wounded proved difficult and only one 
helicopter managed to land and pick up some of the 
casualties. 

Captain Banks requested air and artillery strikes 
on the enemy force. By 1330, he decided to ask for a 
quick reaction mission to bring in reinforcements. 
Supporting arms continued to hit the Viet Cong but 
did not eliminate the main-force battalion's fire. 
The Marines had to remain in their exposed posi- 
tions the rest of the day and all night. 

The following morning, the Marine company 
assaulted the hamlet. There was some gunfire during 
the assault; however, the enemy battalion had 
withdrawn during the night. Marine casualties 
numbered 5 dead and 26 wounded, most of whom 
were from the lead units on 31 January. One Marine 
later died from his wounds. The Marines estimated 
they had killed 101 Viet Cong soldiers. 

During the next two days, local Vietnamese 
peasants brought 22 dead and 18 wounded villagers 
to the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines command post. 
These casualties had resulted from air, artillery, and 
small arms fire. After an investigation, the battalion 
determined that these civilian casualties were a 
regrettable corollary to the fighting on 31 January 
and 1 February. 

The 1st Marines followed up the 31 January action 
with Operation Stone, which lasted from 10-12 



51 



52 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A369882 
Operation Desoto occurred as the 1st Marine Division prepared to issue the M- 16 rifle to 
its infantrymen. MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr., used a 21 February visit to Operation 
Desoto to discuss the weapon with one of the few 1st Division Marines to have one. 



February. Three Marine battalions participated in 
the operation's first phase on Go Noi Island, a 
12-kilometer-long island formed by the river south 
of Company H's action. Phase II took place north of 
the river and included the Thuy Bo area. However, 
only a single reinforced battalion, the 1st Battalion, 
1st Marines, conducted the remainder of the opera- 
tion. 

The 1st Battalion managed to establish a cordon 
on 19 February around elements of the Viet Cong 
R-20 Battalion. Beginning the following morning, 
the Marine battalion's companies took turns sweep- 
ing back and forth across the cordoned area. By the 
end of the operation on 12 February, the 1st Bat- 
talion had killed a confirmed total of 68 Viet Cong 
soldiers and captured 25 prisoners and 17 weapons. 

Marine casualties for all of Operation Stone total- 
ed 9 dead and 76 wounded. One Kit Carson Scout 
also died. The 1st Marines claimed 291 Viet Cong 
killed in the entire operation and listed another 112 
as probably killed, plus 74 enemy captured. 

While such actions established a tedious balance 
in the "cat-and-mouse" game of subduing local guer- 
rillas, operations of a larger scale, responding to con- 
firmed intelligence reports, attempted to smash 
larger, established Communist concentrations. Four 
major operations, Desoto, Deckhouse VI, Union, 
and Union II, produced the most significant results 
during January -June 1967, and are discussed in this 
chapter as being representative of the major unit 
fighting in southern I Corps during this period. 
Although these operations produced tangible and 



significant results, it is, and was, impossible to 
measure the full impact of the "unsuccessful" opera- 
tions, much less the small unit patrols and ambushes 
that encountered no enemy. "No contact" had to be 
considered as a potential victory in the war for area 
and people control. 

The Vietnamese-U.S. 1967 Joint Combined Cam- 
paign Plan specified several areas of southern I Corps 
for allied operations in early 1967. The Thu Bon area 
between Da Nang and An Hoa and the rich, densely 
populated Que Son Valley were main areas of con- 
cern. The results of Marine and ARVN efforts in 
these regions for the past two years were tangible, 
but continued pressure was required to extend and 
consolidate government authority there. Pacified 
areas, and those undergoing pacification, required 
protection, as did military bases and population 
centers. The gradual increase of Communist 
capabilities made it necessary to pay higher costs for 
the security of these locations.* At the same time, 
the enemy sanctuary in the Due Pho-Mo Due sec- 
tions of Quang Ngai, demanded immediate atten- 
tion. Intelligence reports indicated that NVA units 
had moved north into these two districts from 11 
Corps. 



*On 27 February 1967, the enemy attacked the Da Nang air 
base complex with l40mm rockets, which had a range of 8,000 
meters. This was the first use of the weapon in the war. To counter 
the increased firepower capability the Marines extended their 
search areas by approximately 2,500 meters. (See Chapter 6 for a 
more detailed account of this attack.) 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370227 

A peasant family's bomb shelter provides a place for a machine gun team from the 3d 
Battalion, 7th Marines to set up to provide covering fire for infantymen searching a 
village during Operation Arizona in June. Arizona was one of the many conducted by 
the 1st Marine Division to maintain control over the populated areas south of Da Nang. 



Due Pho, the southernmost district of Quang 
Ngai Province, had been under Communist in- 
fluence for many years. The salt flats at Sa Huynh, as 
well as the rich and populated, fertile coastal plain, 
were a vital source of supply for the Viet Cong war 
effort. Furthermore, the Tra Cau inlet and the coast 
immediately to the north had long been suspected as 
infiltration points. Intelligence reports also indicated 
that the district harbored the Viet Cong political 
subdivision of the region. South Vietnamese Army 
activity in Due Pho had been restricted to the out- 
posting of two predominant hills, Nui Dang and 
Nui Dau. An ARVN battalion occupied these 
hilltops and controlled the area around the district 
capital of Due Pho, but nothing more. As a result, 
the guerrillas developed extensive fortifications and 
supply installations throughout the countryside. 
Astonishing as it may seem, the Communist control 
over the area was so complete that many of the in- 
habitants had never come in contact with military 
forces other than the Viet Cong. 

Geographically, the Due Pho region is a 
predominantly flat rice paddy interspersed with 
numerous small streams having steep banks four to 



five feet high. The majority of the streams are for- 
dable. Hedgerows border vitually all the rice paddies 
and cane fields and bamboo groves are scattered 
throughout the area. 

Operation Desoto 
Operation Desoto originated from the joint 
Vietnamese-U.S. 1967 Combined Campaign Plan in 
which III MAF forces were to relieve ARVN units 
from outpost duty so that they could be employed 
more effectively elsewhere in the Revolutionary 
Development Program. The 4th Battalion, 4th Regi- 
ment, 2d ARVN Division, stationed in Due Pho 
District, was one of the units selected to concentrate 
on the pacification program. In turn. General Stiles' 
Task Force X-Ray assigned one of its battalions to 
relieve the ARVN battalion. Lieutenant Colonel 
Raymond J. O'Leary's 3d Battalion, 7th Marines 
received this mission.* 



*LtCol O'Leary's 3d Battalion came to the operation with con- 
siderable experience in fighting both NVA and VC units. During 
the latter part of 1966, the battalion participated in Operation 
Prairie I in the DMZ and in the Dai Loc/Hill 39 TAOR west of Da 
Nang. Col Francis V. White, Comments on draft ms, 22Nov82 
(Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



54 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Dong Quang (2) 



\ \ 



Area of Action 

Operation Desoto 

27 -30 January 1967 




kilometers l. 



See Reference Map, Section 60 





Vinh Lac (1) 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



55 




Due Pho and Vicinity 
Operation Desoto 
January 1967 



kilometers L 

See Reference Map, Section 60 



Sa Huynh ■•:■;:'::•:;'.::■:/ 



The relief operation termed Desoto began on 27 
January. Marine helicopters lifted Company L and 
four 105mm howitzers and crews of Battery I, 12th 
Marines to Nui Dang to relieve the Vietnamese units 
there. The howitzers were to provide fire support for 
a battalion assault the next morning. At 0800 on the 
28th, Company M, followed by the rest of the bat- 
talion, made a helicopter assault into landing zones 
just north of the Nui Dang position. The only op- 
position was sniper fire, but intermittent firing con- 
tinued throughout the day. 

Shortly after the battalion's landing, Companies I 
and M moved out to secure the villages of Vinh Binh 
and Truong Sanh.* Sniper fire harried Company I 
during its advance to Vinh Binh, but by the end of 
the day the company had secured the village and 
established night positions east of it. Company M 
also encountered light harassing fire as it moved 
toward Truong Sanh, but it occupied the village 
without opposition. Villagers at Truong Sanh told 
the Marines that strong VC forces were east of the 
Song Quan (Quan River) in the hamlet of Tan Tu 
(2). 



To exploit this information, the battalion com- 
mand group. Company M, and one platoon moved 
east of the stream south of the hamlet. As the lead 
elements began to move into Tan Tu (2) they came 
under sniper fire, and when they tried to close with 
the snipers a strong VC bunker complex stopped 
their advance. The company called in artillery and 
air strikes against the positions. After the bombard- 
ment, the Marines attacked again, but stopped once 
more because of heavy fire from machine guns and 
automatic weapons to the north and northeast. The 
Marines directed more supporting arms fire against 
the Communist positions. Under its cover. Company 
M recovered its dead and wounded and, following 
orders from the battalion, withdrew across the 
stream and established company night positions. 

Because of the sharp engagement east of the Song 
Quan, Lieutenant Colonel OTeary decided to use 
both Companies I and M to assault the Tan Tu 
village complex on the 29th. During the night sup- 
porting arms blanketed the village to prepare for the 
attack, and at first light both companies began mov- 
ing toward the objective. As they forded the Song 
Quan, sniper fire broke out. The enemy snipers were 
unusually accurate; they wounded three men from 
Company I almost immediately. Both companies 
returned the enemy fire and pushed on into the 
village against little resistance. 




*Truong Sanh appears on maps in use in 1967 but not on the 
1970 edition of the Mo Due mapsheet. It occupied the area north 
cast of Nui Dang and south of the Song Quan. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369746 

A rifleman races for the cover of a paddy dike as his 
7 th Marines unit draws sniper fire on 28 January , the 
first day of Task Force X-Ray's Operation Desoto. 



56 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



By 1330, the Marines had secured Tan Tu and 
moved into the adjacent village of Sa Binh, still 
harassed by long-range sniper fire. Periodic bursts of 
heavy fire were the only sign of the enemy; the ma- 
jority had withdrawn. The two companies searched 
the village and dug in for the night on a small knoll 
north of Sa Binh. 

The next day, Company M again searched the two 
communities. One patrol found an enemy land- 
mine foundry with 500 pounds of uncut metal, mine 
molds, and tools. After photographing the entire 
works for intelligence purposes, the Marines 
demolished the foundry. 

Meanwhile, Company I had started to sweep 
southeast toward the village of Hai Mon. Since this 
area had sheltered enemy snipers on the 29th, the 
Marines first called in artillery and naval preparatory 
fires on suspected positions near the community. As 
the lead element advanced, they met heavy small 
arms fire from Hai Mon. The FAC assigned to Com- 
pany I called in jets armed with napalm and 
500-pound bombs, followed by attacks by two UH- 
lEs which hit the area with rockets and machine gun 
fire. One UH-lE, badly damaged by ground fire, 
force-landed at the battalion CP. 

One of the battalion's 106mm recoilless rifles 
revealed the degree of fortification of the village 
when one of its rounds hit one of the thatched huts 
and revealed an oval concrete bunker. A direct hit 
from another 106mm round penetrated the bunker.' 

Hai Mon proved to be more difficult by the 
minute. The defending enemy had fortified many 
rice paddy dikes to create positions providing a dead- 
ly cross-fire. By 1330, Company I had taken cover in 
deep rice paddies west of the village. As the after- 
noon wore on, the situation became even worse. 
Enemy gunfire, including fire from heavy machine 
guns, raked the company from four sides. The com- 
pany could not evacuate its casualties and ammuni- 
tion ran low. At 1655, the battalion ordered Com- 
pany I to break contact and withdraw to the west. 

Withdrawal and reconsolidation were not easy. 
Company M fought its way up to the eastern flank of 
Company I and replenished the latter's ammunition, 
then both companies tried to disengage under the 
cover of air strikes, artillery, and naval gunfire.* By 
2000, Company M had established a casualty collec- 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369818 
Enemy fire on 1 February during Operation DeSoto 
forced this Marine from Company I, 5d Battalion, 
7th Marines to crawl to cover while another Marine 
elected to avoid the mud and dash forward on foot. 

tion point and both companies gathered their 
casualties there. The Marines could not complete the 
medical evacuation until 2200 because some 
casualties had been point men caught in the open by 
the initial enemy fire. Marines could recover these 
bodies only by crawling out under cover of darkness. 
By then, the battalion estimated that Hai Mon was 
60 percent destroyed. Supporting arms amounting 
to 325 5-inch naval rockets, 125 5-inch shells, 590 
105mm rounds, and 50 tons of aviation ordnance 
had smashed the enemy fortifications. 

Lieutenant Colonel O'Leary, realizing the village 
was highly fortified, was not content with the 
damage to Hai Mon and ordered more shelling to 
neutralize the area. Again on the 31st, the battalion 
directed air, naval gunfire, and artillery at all known 
and suspected Communist positions in and around 
the village. 

While supporting arms pounded Hai Mon, Com- 
pany M resumed the deliberate search of the Tan Tu 
hamlets, as Company I swept the area west of Hai 
Mon. To the south. Company K, operating from 
Nui Dau, made several small contacts, but enemy 
activity was light. The heaviest action of the day oc- 
curred at 2200 when the battalion command post 
and logistic support area came under small arms and 
60mm mortar fire. Shortly thereafter, 20 VC probed 
the perimeter. Company L and Headquarters and 



*Col Francis V. White, then the 3d Battalion's S-3 officer, 
recalled in 1982 that, at the height of this firefight, Capt Alan L. 
Orr, the battalion S-4 officer, led an ammunition party to Com- 
pany M's position, then to Company I, to deliver badly needed 



ammunition and to assist in casualty evacuation. Col Francis V. 
White, Comments on draft ms, 22Nov82 (Vietnam comment file, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



57 



Service Company security troops stopped the attack 
in the outer wire of their defenses, killing two of the 
enemy. Marine losses were 14 wounded, eight of 
whom required evacuation. The battalion's 81mm 
mortars and supporting artillery fired on possible 
escape routes to catch the withdrawing enemy, but a 
followup search of the area turned up only two 
Russian-made rifles, several grenades, and some sat- 
chel charges. 

During early February, the battalion remained in 
the new TAOR and conducted repeated search and 
destroy operations. On 2 February, Lieutenant Col- 
onel Edward J. Bronars relieved Lieutenant Colonel 
O'Leary as commanding officer of the battalion. The 
next day, 3 February, Companies L and M, 5th 
Marines, which joined the operation on 31 January, 
conducted a two-day sweep in the village complex 
southeast of Nui Dang. Although contact in the area 
was light, the Marines found the hamlets to be well 
fortified, and discovered more than 100 tons of rice 
which they bagged and turned over to ARVN 
authorities. After searching this community, the 
Marines again turned their attention to Hai Mon and 
Hill 26 east of it. 

Aerial observation reports and Company I's 
bloody experience of the 30th indicated that most of 
the enemy fortifications in the village pointed west. 
Lieutenant Colonel Bronars decided to attack the 
position from the east by vertical envelopment, us- 
ing Companies L and M. The morning of 5 
February, artillery, naval gunfire, and air bombard- 
ment blanketed the objective area. The assault 
helicopters from Lieutenant Colonel Ural W. 
Shadrick's HMM-262 followed approach and retire- 
ment lanes which allowed the artillery at Nui Dang 
and the naval guns offshore to maintain suppressive 
fire throughout the landing. 

Light machine gun fire and several rounds of 
57mm recoilless rifle fire greeted the companies as 
they moved into the hamlets. They responded by 
calling in artillery and naval gunfire. At this time, 
Marines spotted a number of sampans carrying about 
30 Viet Cong fleeing northward across the Song Tra 
Cau. Bronar's Company M sprayed the withdrawing 
force with small arms fire and fixed-wing aircraft 
made several strikes, destroying several of the sam- 
pans. 

After seizing Hill 26 and Hai Mon, the Marines 
searched the area and uncovered a vast, intricate 
bunker and cave system. They promptly destroyed 
the bunkers, but the caves, particularly those on Hill 



26, were so extensive that the battalion called in 
engineers to determine the amount of explosives 
needed to seal them. By the time the last cave on the 
hill had collapsed, the engineers had used 3,600 
pounds of explosives. The well-prepared defensive 
positions and the skillfully laid fields of fire confirm- 
ed that the Communists had expected an attack 
from the west; the assault from the east caught them 
by surprise. Possession of the village enabled the 
Marines to control the southern bank of the Song Tra 
Cau inlet. 

Desoto continued during February, consisting of 
frequent platoon and company sweeps and extensive 
patrolling and ambushing throughout the area. The 
battalion's area of operations expanded with each 
passing day. The villages of Thuy Trieu, An Trung, 
Dong Quang, Vinh Lac, and Thanh Lam appeared 
on daily situation reports, but for the Marines on the 
ground each one was just another "ville" that had to 
be seized and cleared, a dirty and often painful 
task.^ Attrition among company grade officers was 
quite high, and the high tempo of daily operations 
had a noticeable deleterious effect on the rifle com- 
panies. ^ 

Snipers were a constant threat and the major 
source of Marine casualties. The Marines countered 
with scout-sniper teams positioned at carefully 
selected vantage points; however, the teams had dif- 
ficulty in locating an enemy who fired from cleverly 
constructed spider traps 

Throughout the month the battalion exploited 
reports of Viet Cong positions with artillery and 
naval gunfire and extensively used radar-controlled 
aerial bombing of suspected enemy concentrations. 
Surveillance reports indicated that the supporting 
arms attacks were very effective against the Com- 
munist sanctuaries. 

Deckhouse iDesoto 

While Lieutenant Colonel Bronars' battalion 
gradually expanded control of the Nui Dang-Nui 
Dau area, the Marines of Colonel Harry D. Wort- 
man's SLF landed near Sa Huynh at the southern tip 
of the district. The SLF's amphibious operation area 
included the only area in I Corps where the An- 
namite Mountains extend to the coastline. It was a 
predominantly Communist-controlled area. The 
heavily forested hills concealed the supply routes 
leading to major enemy base areas further inland. A 
sheltered harbor and anchorage, and several landing 
beaches on the coast enhanced Sa Huynh's infiltra- 
tion potential. 



58 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



SLF Operation Deckhouse VI had several goals: to 
prevent free movement of Communist forces in the 
area; to conduct harbor, beach, and airfield surveys 
to locate a site from which to provide more 
economical logistic support for allied forces in 
southern Quang Ngai; and to provide security for 
the construction of a CIDG camp which would 
establish permanent government control in the 
region. Upon completion of these tasks, the SLF was 
to join with Bronar's battalion to continue search 
and destroy operations throughout the Due Pho 
region. 

The first phase of the operation began at 0800 16 
February when the naval gunfire support ships, in- 
cluding the rocket ships USS Clarion River (LSMR 
409) and USS White River (LSMR 536), began 
preparation fires. When the naval fires ended, two 
UH-lEs of VMO-2 directed air strikes on the primary 
and alternate landing zones. At 0855, the first wave 
of helicopters from Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth E. 
Huntington's HMM-363 lifted off the deck of the 
USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) with Company A of Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Jack Westerman's 1st Battalion, 4th 
Marines. The helicopters landed on high ground five 
miles inland. Two UH-lE gunships accompanying 
the flight suppressed a platoon-size ambush, killing 
12 of an estimated 30-man VC force near the LZ. 

On 20 February, operational control of the SLF 
passed to General Stiles' Task Force X-Ray. Lack of 
opposition around Sa Huynh allowed General Stiles 
to reorient the BLT's efforts. He ordered Westerman 
to begin deliberate search and destroy operations to 
the northeast, while elements involved in Operation 
Desoto moved into blocking positions south and 
west of Nui Dau. By the afternoon of the 25th, the 
BLT had passed through Lieutenant Colonel 
Bronars' battalion and moved into positions near 
Nui Dau, thus ending the first phase of Operation 
Deckhouse VI. 

During their sweep north. Lieutenant Colonel 
Westerman's Marines found numerous bunkers, 
tunnels, caves, and supply caches; they demolish 
ed 167 fortifications, captured 20 tons of supplies, 
and destroyed 10 caves and 84 booby traps. In the 
process of defending these positions, the enemy 
force killed six Marines and wounded another 61. 
Most of the enemy casualties came from supporting 
arms fire called in by reconnaissance teams operating 
to the west; these fires killed 201 enemy soldiers. 

The operation plan scheduled the second phase of 
Deckhouse VI to take place along the northern por- 



tion of the Desoto TAOR. Intelligence reports in- 
dicated that the 38th VC Battalion was infiltrating 
into the Due Pho area from the northwest. General 
Stiles arranged to exploit this information by an 
operation involving his Task Force X-Ray, the SLF, 
and 2d ARVN Division units in Quang Ngai Pro- 
vince. 

One Marine and two ARVN battalions were to be 
helilifted into the area northwest of Due Pho and 
sweep eastward. At the same time, other 2d ARVN 
Division units would screen the northern flank of the 
operational area while elements of the 3d Battalion, 
7th Marines secured the southern flank from block- 
ing positions within its TAOR. The plan ordered the 
SLF Marines to make an amphibious assault between 
the Mo Duc-Duc Pho district boundary and the Song 
Tra Cau, then sweep southwest to entrap any VC 
withdrawing from the other allied forces advancing 
eastward. 

On the morning of 26 February, Lieutenant Colo- 
nel Peter L. Hilgartner's 1st Battalion, 5th Marines 
and two ARVN battalions landed northwest of Due 
Pho and began sweeping northeast. They en- 
countered only long-range sniper fire, but 
discovered numerous caves and bunkers, all oriented 
toward the east. 

With the insertion of three battalions in the 
western portion of the area of operation. General 
Stiles ordered the SLF withdrawn, and by 1825 that 
evening the BLT completed its withdrawal. Less than 
1 5 hours after the last elements of the BLT left the 
beach near Nui Dau, the SLF made another am- 
phibious assault, 10 kilometers further north in Due 
Pho District. ^ 

Following preparation of the beach area and lan- 
ding zones by naval gunfire and aircraft, the 
helicopterborne assault elements launched from the 
USS Iwo Jima at 0830 on 27 February. Two armed 
UH-lEs escorted the 12 UH-34s and two CH-46s car- 
rying the first wave of Company A into LZ Bat, 
1,500 meters from the beach. 

As the troop-laden helicopters from HMM-363 
made their approach into LZ Bat, enemy soldiers, 
located in and around the landing zone, opened up 
with a heavy volume of small arms fire. Marine 
helicopter crewmen immediately returned fire with 
their door-mounted machine guns; the UH-lEs 
closed in to provide suppressive fire with rockets and 
machine guns. 

The first wave of Company A got into LZ Bat at 
the cost of battle damage to eight medium 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



59 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A80097 1 
A unit of BUT 1/4 establishes a night defensive position in the middle of a broad ex- 
panse of muddy rice paddies during Operation Deckhouse VI. One of the Marines in the 
foreground has obtained a non-issue Ml rifle which rests against a pack on the dike. 



Ki-X' I'- 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A191134 
Capt Richard P. Corcoran uses his radio to coor- 
dinate the defense of Landing Zone Bat on 27 
February at the beginning of Phase II of Operation 
Deckhouse VI. Only one platoon and the company 
headquarters managed to get into the LZ; heavy 
enemy fire forced other units to land on the beach. 



helicopters. All eight flew back to the Iwo Jima but 
three made forced landings onto the flight deck. 
Another three of the damaged aircraft also had to be 
grounded. 

Company C landed by LVTs at 0837. With the 
beach area safe for helicopters, Company B and the 
remainder of Company A used the area as their LZ. 
As soon as they reorganized, they moved toward LZ 
Bat and linked up with the isolated elements of 
Company A. Enemy sniper fire continued, woun- 
ding seven Marines by 1200. 

LZ Bat remained hazardous for aircraft all morn- 
ing. At 1030, a UH-34 encountered heavy small 
arms fire while making an emergency medevac from 
the zone. Fortunately, it suffered no hits. Around 
noon, two other helicopters from HMM-363 were 
not so lucky. The squadron's after action report said: 

At 1206H, two aircraft were launched for an emergency 
med-evac [from] Landing Zone Bat. YZ-81 received five 
rounds upon approach and had to wave-off. His wingman, 
YZ-83, then proceeded into the zone, but also en- 
countered heavy fire on approach and, after taking three 
rounds, waved off. One of the rounds lodged in the co- 
pilot's right thigh causing moderate injury. Shrapnel from 
the same round hit the co-pilot's left foot and the pilot's 
chin, causing minor injuries. Both aircraft returned to the 
USS Iwo Jima with battle damage.'' 



60 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188495 
An armed Navy LCU lands Marines at Blue Beach during the first day of Operation 
Deckhouse VI. Ships of the Seventh Fleet's Amphibious Ready Group dot the horizon. 



The rest of the BLT continued to land and by mid- 
day the command group was controlHng the opera- 
tion from ashore and the two artillery batteries were 
set up, ready to support the battalion. Company D 
landed by helicopter at 1430 and the battalion 
began to sweep to the southwest. 

The SLF remained in almost constant contact with 
fleeing groups of VC for two days after the landing, 
but by the afternoon of 1 March the contact 
diminished. The morning of 3 March the operation 
terminated. Phase II of Operation Deckhouse VI cost 
the enemy 76 dead; but they killed a Marine and 
wounded 50 others.* 

For Hilgartner's 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 
operating inland with the ARVN battalions, the en- 
tire operation had been frustrating. Although the 
Marines found and destroyed numerous fortifica- 
tions, they had very little enemy contact. The follow- 
ing excerpt from a report of 2 March typifies the bat- 
talion's encounter with the enemy during the period 
26 February- 3 March: 

Company D while sweeping through a hamlet observed 
3 VC carrying packs. One VC was dressed in black, one in 
white, and one in green trousers. The VC spotted the 
Marines and began to run in a westerly direction. Com- 
pany D fired 10 rounds of small arms fire and physically 
pursued the VC. VC wearing green trousers was captured. 
The VC carried a well-stocked firstaid kit. Marines con- 



*See Chapter 8 for detailed descriptions of SLF participation in 
Operation Deckhouse VI. 



tinned to pursue and captured the VC wearing white 
trousers. This VC was carrying a pack with assorted 
clothing. Marines continued to pursue third VC with 
negative results. ""A 

When Deckhouse VI ended on 3 March, the 1st 
Battalion, 5th Marines, had accounted for 17 Com- 
munists killed and 11 captured. The 1st Battalion 
suffered two killed and 12 wounded. 

Both the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and the 1st 
Battalion, 5th Marines departed the Due Pho area 
after Deckhouse VI. The 1st Battalion, 4th Marines 
reverted to SLF control while the 1st Battalion, 5th 
Marines returned to Chu Lai. With the departure of 
these units, responsibility for the Due Pho TAOR 
again rested with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines. 

Desoto Continued 

Operation Desoto continued through the months 
of March and April. The 3d Battalion conducted dai- 
ly company- and platoon-size search and destroy 
operations while maintaining and improving the 
Nui Dang base camp and LSA area and positions on 
Nui Dau. Throughout this period, brushes with 
local VC were frequent. Constant pressure by the 
Marines forced the VC to give up attempts to defend 
the hamlets and resort to delaying actions, harass- 
ment, and only an occasional attack. 

The most damaging enemy action during the 
period took place early in the morning of 24 March 
when an enemy force hit the battalion base camp 
and logistic support area with 250 mortar and 
recoilless rifle rounds. The first rounds landed in the 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



61 



CP/LSA part of the camp. Battery I began counter- 
battery fire before its gun positions came under fire. 
The VC quickly responded and fired 70 rounds into 
the artillery revetments, scoring direct hits on two of 
the Marine guns, killing three Marines and woun- 
ding 14 others. The artillerymen fired more than 100 
rounds, silencing the enemy weapons. The effects of 
the Communist attack remained visible long after 
the action stopped. The enemy fire had hit the tac- 
tical fuel dispensing system and dumps in the LSA; 
70,000 gallons of fuel burned far into the night. 

A search of the area the next morning located 36 
75mm recoilless rifle cannisters and several freshly 
dug mortar positions. All the positions showed 
damage from the thorough artillery counterbattery 
fires. Followup intelligence reports revealed that the 
attacking force came from the 9^th VC Battalion and 
that they had forced local villagers to carry ammuni- 
tion for the 12 recoilless rifles used in the attack. 

A sequel to this incident occurred on the 27th, 
when the enemy attacked the destroyer USS Oz- 
bourne (DD 843), lying 1,000 meters off the mouth 
of the Song Tra Cau, with 18 rounds of recoilless ri- 
fle fire. There was no damage to the ship and her 
answering fire drove off the attackers. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369802 
The Strain of the constant patrolling and combat of 
Operation Desoto shows on the face of this Manne 
from Company F, 2d Battalion, 1th Marines. Com- 
pany F served under the id Battalion, 7th Marines 
during some of the heaviest fighting in Desoto. 



Operations in the Que Son Basin brought an increase in the base and logistics structure 
in the area. Here, a Marine CH-46 lands on a newly constructed helicopter platform sur- 
rounded by the sand-bagged bunkers at the fortified hilltop position of Nui Dang. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421627 




62 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The same day, Company K conducted a search 
and destroy operation northwest of Nui Dau, accom- 
panied by the village chief and National Police 
representatives. Company G, 7th Marines, which 
had joined the operation on 23 March, assumed 
blocking positions outside the village while a plane 
flew over the village, broadcasting advice to the 
villagers to remain in their homes.* As the Marines 
of Company K began moving into the hamlets, they 
saw several VC slipping into the waters of the Dam 
Lam Binh and into sampans moored nearby. The 
Marines captured these, and found 13 more hiding 
in a bunker. The pilots of UH-lE helicopters suppor- 
ting the operation saw more Communists 
camouflaged with moss in shallow swamp water. The 
gunships made several strafing runs to force the VC 
toward shore. After each pass, some of the enemy 
waded to shore to be captured by Company K. The 
aviators flushed 3 VC from the swamp in this man- 
ner and killed another 23. The number of prisoners 
reached 49 during the operation. 

By 31 March, the battalion had swept approx- 
imately 75 percent of the assigned area of respon- 
sibility. Reconnaissance teams operating in the hills 
to the west and aerial observers continued to report 
moving enemy, which supporting arms took under 
fire with good results. Targets outside the TAOR, ac- 
quired through intelligence sources, suffered attacks 
by Marine radar-controlled air strikes and USAF 
B-52s. The steady pressure exerted by the Marine in- 
fantrymen in the rice paddies and hamlets began to 
pay dividends. The harassed local Communist forces 
reverted to guerrilla tactics as evidenced by an in- 
crease in their use of mines and booby traps. 

The most costly mining incident during this 
period occurred at dusk on 5 April. As full darkness 
approached, Captain Robert B. Wilson began to 
move his Company G, 7th Marines into a night 
defensive position on a small hill southeast of Nui 
Dang. Someone in a security element tripped an an- 
tipersonnel mine devised from a 105mm round. The 
explosion wounded two Marines, one of whom re- 
quired immediate evacuation. Unfortunately, the 
medevac helicopter, which had been in the area all 
day, had departed for Ky Ha. Instead, the pilot of a 
UH-lE gun ship volunteered to make the evacua- 
tion. 



*Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines replaced Company F, 
2d Battalion, 7th Marines which had relieved Company M, 3d 
Battalion, 5th Marines on 23 February. 



Captain Wilson suspected there might be addi- 
tional mines hidden in the chest-high elephant grass 
on the hill. He advised the UH-lE pilot by radio to 
hover, rather than land, when picking up the casual- 
ty. The pilot hovered just above the ground and 
several infantrymen loaded the wounded Marine on 
board. As the loading occurred, a second, larger ex- 
plosion disintegrated the UH-lE, causing numerous 
additional casualties. Other nearby Marines rushed 
to the scene to provide assistance only to be caught 
by a third explosion as large as the second. 

Darkness made it difficult for Captain Wilson to 
get an accurate casualty count; the reported figure 
was 10 dead and 13 wounded. (Not until a week 
later did Marines recover the body of an 11th victim, 
a crew member of the UH-lE. The crewman's body, 
still strapped in its seat, lay more than 200 meters 
from the site of the explosion.)' 

Company G searched the area around the three 
craters and found two wires leading from the hill to a 
cane field 500 meters away; the VC had command 
detonated the last two mines. Analysis of the craters 
from the last two explosions revealed they had been 
made by bombs of 250 pounds or larger. 

While all the enemy's harassing actions were not 
as successful as the one on 5 April, Marine casualties 
were high. Lieutenant Commander Robert M. 
O'Brien's Company B, 1st Medical Battalion, 
operating with the Marines at Due Pho, treated an 
average of 12 casualties and performed two major 
surgical operations a day. On one day alone, they 
handled 49 wounded. One of these casualties, a 
young Marine who was seriously wounded and under 
the influence of sedation, asked O'Brien if he would 
live. A few minutes later the chaplain arrived and, as 
he approached, heard the wounded man say 
"Chaplain, I don't need you. The doctor says I'm go- 
ing to live."^ 

The return of local Viet Cong units to guerrilla 
tactics was not the only indication of the Marines' 
growing influence in the region. District officials 
reported that the populace, enjoying more security, 
became increasingly pro-Government. Indicative of 
growing anti-Viet Cong feeling among the people 
was the fact that they often volunteered information 
pinpointing VC locations. 

Unfortunately, military success outpaced civic ac- 
tion progress, particularly in the resolution of the 
refugee problem. About 11,000 Vietnamese became 
refugees from the heavy combat in the Due Pho 
area. Of these, local government officials considered 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



63 



about 7,500 as "permanent" refugees who were to be 
resettled on an island 10 miles off the coast. 
However, since there were few vessels available to 
move such numbers, food and housing became 
critical in the Desoto area of operations.' 

Local factors complicated the 3d Battalion, 7th 
Marines' civic action problems. The area was the 
home of the vice premier of North Vietnam, a fact in 
which many local Vietnamese took great pride. In 
addition, intelligence sources gave indications the 
province chief was a Viet Cong sympathizer, as were 
many of the refugees. Despite positive efforts by the 
commander of the Marine battalion, including ob- 
taining new leadership for the attached Army civil 
affairs platoon, the civic action aspects of Operation 
Desoto remained unsolved long after the operation 
ended.* 

By 7 April, when Operation Desoto ended, the 
Marines had expanded positive military control over 
43 square kilometers of the Due Pho District and 
had ensured relatively safe movement in another 50 
square kilometers. Revolutionary Development 
teams were able to work effectively, a virtual im 
possibility three months earlier. Desoto was a land- 
mark in that it was an initial step toward restoration 
of Government control in southernmost I Corps. 

Logistically, Operation Desoto had been unique. 
The terrain and tactical situation required that all 
logistical support be provided by helicopter. At the 
beginning of the operation, the Marines established 
a logistical support area at the Quang Ngai airfield, 
and for the first six days flew all supplies from there 
directly to units in the field. Thereafter, six CH-46 
helicopters arrived daily from Chu Lai, to supply an 
LSA at Due Pho. On 8 February, to preserve the 
wing's helicopters and conserve critical flight time, 
III MAF obtained a Navy logistical support ship 
which established a forward supply point providing 
all operational support. The ship, an LST, loaded at 
Chu Lai with all classes of supply and then stationed 
itself off the coast, only five miles from the Due Pho 
LSA. Helicopters, hovering over the ship, picked up 
supplies as external lifts and moved them to the 
LSA. This technique reduced the daily helicopter re- 
quirement from six to four. The Navy further im- 
proved the system later in February by providing a 
helicopter refueling capability by mooring an LCU 
(landing craft, utility) alongside, loaded with two 
10,000-gallon reinforced rubber tanks full of avia- 
tion gas. Helicopters landing on the cargo deck of 
the LST could have their fuel tanks filled from the 



alongside LCU at the same time they reloaded for 
another mission to Due Pho. A forward supply point 
at Quang Ngai backed up the logistic support ship. 
Bulk items, fuel, and ammunition arrived there by 
trucks from Chu Lai. A detachment of the Marines' 
new heavy-lift helicopters, Sikorsky CH-53D Sea 
Stallions from HMM-265, commanded by Lieu- 
tenant Colonel William R. Beeler, lifted the bulk 
items to the operational area when required. The 
new helicopters made possible air transportation of 
heavy equipment such as Ontos, 155mm howitzers, 
and D-4 Caterpillar tractors for which there had 
been no previous means of aerial delivery. 

Logistical problems during the operation almost 
equaled the operational difficulties of eliminating 
the Communists from the area. From 27 January 
when Desoto began, until 7 April when it ended and 
control of the area passed to elements of the U.S. Ar- 
my's 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), the Marines 
killed a reported 383 enemy soldiers. But in terms of 
American casualties the cost was high — 76 Marines 
died and another 573 received wounds. 

Operation Union 

Operation Union, like Desoto, was an outgrowth 
of the 1967 Joint Combined Campaign Plan and the 
requirement for III MAF to replace ARVN units at 
isolated outposts. The hill complex of Nui Loc Son, 
overlooking the Que Son Valley, is 25 kilometers 
northwest of Tam Ky.* In 1967 it was the site of one 
of the ARVN manned outposts. 

The Marines realized that dominance of the fer- 
tile, densely populated Que Son Basin region astride 
the Quang Nam-Quang Tin boundary was one of 
the keys to control of the five northern provinces of 
Vietnam. The enemy needed this agriculturally rich 
and populous area to support operations in the 
coastal lowlands. Despite a number of operations in 
the basin by both Marine and ARVN forces. Govern- 
ment control continued to be negligible. 

The principal enemy force in the basin was the 2d 
NVA Division. Although headquarters elements of 
the division appeared there in July 1966, units of its 
3d and 21st NVA Regiments did not arrive in force 
until late February 1967. As the year progressed, the 



*Some sources refer to this area as the Nui Loc Son Basin. The 
term Que Son Basin is used for consistency within this volume. 



64 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Action of 21 -25 April 1967 
Operation Union 



kilometers L_ 
See Relerenci 




Nui Loc Son Base 



5d VC Regiment, also part of the IdNVA Division, 
joined them after moving north into the region from 
Quang Ngai Province. 

The demand for Marine units elsewhere long 
denied the permanent assignment of a battalion or 
larger formation to the valley, and ARVN troops 
lacked the strength to carry the burden alone. 
However, the deployment of U.S. Army units to 
southern I Corps during April freed the 1st Marine 
Division for operations in this critical area.* Opera- 
tion Union marked the beginning of the bitter cam- 
paign for control of the Que Son Basin. 

In mid-January 1967, Captain Gene A. Deegan's 
Company F, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines had relieved 
the ARVN unit on Nui Loc Son and began opera- 
tions under the direct control of Colonel Emil J. 
Radics' 1st Marines. By positioning Marines on this 
small hill mass. III MAF hoped to achieve three 

*Two battalions of the 2d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Air- 
mobile) temporarily moved into Due Pho pending the arrival of 
Task Force Oregon units which were to be assigned to I Corps to 
reinforce III MAF later in April. See Chapter 4 for a detailed ac- 
count of the U.S. Army's arrival in I CTZ. 



goals: establish a modicum of control over VC/NVA 
access to this rice producing area; initiate a much 
needed civic action effort in a region frequented 
regularly by U.S. Forces; and force the IdNVA Divi- 
sion into open battle. 

Company F, reinforced with an 81mm mortar sec- 
tion and a 106mm recoilless rifle section from the 
battalion and a 4.2-inch mortar battery from the 1st 
Battalion, 11th Marines, engaged small enemy units 
attempting to cross the valley floor. The company 
undertook civic action projects which generated a 
good relationship with the Vietnamese and produc- 
ed accurate intelligence of NVA/VC activities in the 
area. The successful combination of small unit 
operations and civic action disturbed the NVA who 
had previously operated with impunity in the Que 
Son Basin. Colonel Radics described these actions as 
"... the planned and premeditated utilization of a 
Marine rifle company to create a situation. "' The 2d 
NVA Division took the bait; in April it came out in 
force to fight. 

The enemy's desire for a fight did not go unnotic- 
ed. As Colonel Radics recalled: 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



65 



During early April, while making one of my twice week- 
ly visits to Nui Loc Son, Captain Deegan advised me of in- 
creasing enemy movement in the hills to the west and 
south of the Que Son Basin. We deduced that, perhaps, 
he was at last making his move. On April 13, [the enemy] 
started infiltrating small units into the valley floor east of F 
Company's position. This buildup continued through the 
I6th and 17th, and on the night of April 18, Captain 
Deegan reported . . . that he believed the enemy [force] to 
be of at least two regiments in size. 

My options were two. Let the enemy initiate action 
against F Company on Nui Loc Son and then 
react— or— assume the initiative and strike him first. I 
chose the latter option . . . The concept of a heliborne 
assault had been on the books and we only needed to know 
where the enemy would locate his major elements. . . . His 
option to locate east of Nui Loc Son was just what the 1st 
Marines wanted. This would enable the regiment to in- 
hibit the enemy from [either] assaulting F Company's posi- 
tion or rapidly seeking sanctuary in the mountains to the 
south and east.'" 

The 1st Marines staff worked throughout the 
night of 18-19 April developing its final plan of at- 
tack. The plan provided for the following: Company 
F was to make contact from its outpost position, 
covered by supporting arms fire; elements of the 3d 
Battalion, 1st Marines would make a helicopter- 
borne assault into the operational area, followed by 
the 1st Battalion (-), 1st Marines; and another, as yet 
undesignated, battalion from Chu Lai would act as 
regimental reserve. Artillery from the 1st Battalion, 
11th Marines would move by helicopters to Que Son 
village for direct support. The 1st Marines command 
group would control the operation from the Nui Loc 
Son outpost. 

The 1st Marines presented its plans to General 
Nickerson on the morning of the 19th, with the 
recommendation for execution that same day. 
General Nickerson approved the plan but delayed its 
execution because of another operation in progress 
within the division TAOR. On the afternoon of the 
20th, he gave permission to begin Operation Union 
the following day. 

Early on the morning of the 21st, Company F 
moved out from Nui Loc Son. By 0700, the company 
had several brief encounters with small NVA 
elements and had seen a large enemy force moving 
into the village of Binh Son (1) four kilometers to 
the northeast. At 0930 the Marine company came 
under heavy small arms fire and pulled back to a tree 
line where it called in artillery and air strikes on the 
enemy positions. At 1100, Captain Deegan moved 
his 2d and 3d Platoons against the village, while the 
1st Platoon provided covering fire. The assault 



elements encountered almost no resistance as they 
jumped off in the attack, but as they started to enter 
the village they were stopped cold by heavy fire. The 
1st Platoon tried to flank the enemy position, but as 
it moved it came under equally heavy fire. Despite 
repeated artillery and air strikes on the NVA posi- 
tions the company was stuck, unable to maneuver 
because of the volume of enemy fire. 

Lieutenant Colonel Hillmer F. DeAtley, 3d Bat- 
talion, 1st Marines, his command group, and Com- 
panies I and M, joined the fight, entering a hotly 
contested landing zone 1,500 meters from the Com- 
pany F action. The force fought its way to help 
Deegan, who, despite serious wounds, continued to 
direct his company until evacuated after DeAtley's 
battalion arrived. At 1610, the lead elements of 
Lieutenant Colonel Dean E. Esslinger's 3d Battalion, 
5th Marines from Chu Lai began landing east of the 
battlefield. Esslinger's Marines moved west through 
scattered resistance to link up with DeAtley's 
Marines. Lieutenant Colonel Van D. Bell, Jr.'s 1st 
Battalion, 1st Marines arrived from Da Nang, 
landing in darkness near the 1st Marines command 
post at the Nui Loc Son outpost. Bell's battalion 
moved out immediately to join the battle. 

To support the rapidly committed battalions, 
helicopters lifted Battery B, 1st Battalion, 11th 
Marines to Que Son village and a platoon of U.S. Ar- 
my 175mm guns from the 3rd Battalion, 18th Field 
Artillery moved from Chu Lai to Tam Ky. The 
heaviest supporting arms fire power for the opening 
phase of the operation came from planes of the 1st 
Marine Aircraft Wing. 

During the first day's action, the men of Company 
F and the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines bore the brunt of 
the fighting, but by dawn of the 22nd, all elements 
were locked in battle. The Marines drove the enemy 
soldiers out of their positions and maneuvered to 
force them northward. While withdrawing, the 
Communists suffered severe casualties from air 
strikes and artillery. Bell's and Esslinger's battalions 
attacked northeast, while the three- battalion ARVN 
1st Ranger Group moved southwest from Thanh 
Binh to catch the fleeing enemy. 

The pursuit continued as the infantrymen search- 
ed north and east of Nui Loc Son, but there were on- 
ly scattered contacts. On the 25th, Colonel Kenneth 
J. Houghton's 5th Marines arrived from Chu Lai and 
moved into the valley, allowing the 1st Marines to be 



66 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




returned to their Da Nang TAOR.* By 26 April, all 
elements of the 1st Marines had returned to Da 
Nang, with the exception of Company F which re- 
mained at the Nui Loc Son outpost. 

Lieutenant Colonel Esslinger's battalion began a 
thorough search of the mountains south and west of 
the basin to find the NVA. Action was generally 
light, but an incident on the night of the 27th prov- 
ed that the enemy remained active in the area. A 
Marine stepped on a mine which triggered a series of 
explosions throughout a landing zone. Marine 
casualties were one killed and 43 wounded, 35 of 
whom required evacuation. 

On 28 April, Colonel James A. Gallo, Jr.'s new 
SLF Alpha, which landed by helicopters southeast of 
the Nui Loc Son outpost, joined Esslinger's bat- 
talion.** Both battalions met only light resistance as 



*The 5th Marines consisted of only the regimental CP and the 
1st and 3d Battalions. The 2d Battalion guarded the industrial 
complex at An Hoa in the Da Nang TAOR under the operational 
control of the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division. 

**The code name for SLF Alpha's participation in the operation 
was Beaver Cage. See Chapter 10 for a detailed account of SLF ac- 
tion during Beaver Cage. 



they swept their respective zones. Despite the lack of 
contact, intelligence reports indicated that major 
enemy forces were still in the area. 

Colonel Houghton, an experienced combat com- 
mander in two wars, responded to this information 
by helilifting Lieutenant Colonel Hilgartner's 1st 
Battalion, 5th Marines into the mountains 13 
kilometers east of Hiep Due on 1 May. Initially, the 
battalion encountered only light opposition, but as 
it swept west along the Song Chang, there was a 
sharp increase in the number of engagements. 

On 5 May, Hilgartner's Company D came upon an 
enemy regimental storage site three kilometers north 
of Hiep Due. The cache contained recoilless rifle 
rounds, shoes, 8,000 uniforms, 3 complete surgical 
kits, maps, and other assorted equipment." 

As the two battalions of the 5th Marines con- 
tinued to sweep north. Lieutenant Colonel Peter A. 
Wickwire's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines helilifted into 
the Que Son area of the basin and began a sweep 
northwest of Que Son village. As the operation pro- 
gressed, all three battalions had brief contacts with 
small enemy units, but in each case the NVA 
withdrew. 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



67 



On 10 May the Marines engaged a larger and more 
determined Communist force. Hilgartner's Com- 
pany C was moving up the southwestern slope of 
Hill 110, 4,000 meters north of Que Son, when it 
came under heavy fire from a battalion entrenched 
along the face of Nui Nong Ham to the southeast. 
The Marines took Hill 110, but when they reached 
the summit they found themselves still under deadly 
fire from a cane field below and from caves in the 
lower slopes of Nui Nong Ham. Captain Russell J. 
Caswell, the company commander, called for help. 

Companies B and C of Wickwire's battalion were 
the nearest units to Caswell's Marines; they were 
northeast of Hill 110. The two companies shifted to 
Hilgartner's operational control. They moved to join 
the action but a determined enemy and heavy NVA 
fire halted their advance. The Marines adjusted sup- 
porting arms fire on the Communists' positions, but 
it was not effective; friendly and enemy forces were 
too close. The two companies requested rein- 
forcements. Marine helicopters flew a platoon of 
Wickwire's Company A to the area. The platoon met 
such fierce resistance while landing that further 
helicopters could not land. The enemy shot down 
one UH-34 in the landing zone which further com- 
plicated the situation. 

Hilgartner's Company A, 2,000 meters to the east, 
moved to help Wickwire's companies. As the com- 
pany approached the battle area it also came under 
fire. The company commander. Captain Gerald L. 
McKay, quickly deployed his troops to push through 
the enemy positions. Just as the company began its 
assault, an airborne forward air controller mistakenly 
marked the company's position with rockets and four 
Marine F-4s strafed the company, killing five 
Marines and wounding another 24. The combina- 
tion of the attack and the enemy fire halted Com- 
pany A's advance. 

Hilgartner's command group and Company D 
were on the slope of Nui Nong Ham, southeast of 
Hill 110. They climbed over the crest of Hill 183 to 
assist Company D and BLT 1/3 below them. By 
1500, they had arrived at a position from which they 
could support by fire. The battalion's mortarmen 
could see the enemy in the valley below and could 
immediately adjust their weapons. They fired at a 
rapid rate; the tubes were "just about red hot."'^ 

At 1530, Esslinger's Company M landed at 
Hilgartner's position from helicopters and Company 
D moved into Nui Nong Ham to join up with Cap- 
tain Caswell's Company C. The two companies 



quickly consolidated their position and began to 
provide covering fire for the Marines below. Under 
the cover of supporting fire from above, the BLT 
companies maneuvered against the NVA in the 
sugar cane field and on the northern slope of Nui 
Nong Ham. By evening the Marines drove the 
enemy force from its position and forced it to 
withdraw to the northeast. Artillery and air strikes 
followed the retreating North Vietnamese. Not ail of 
the NVA escaped. The Marines found the bodies of 
116 enemy soldiers the following day. Marine losses 
were also high: 33 died and another 135 received 
wounds, including the casualties from the misguid- 
ed air strikes on Company A. 

On 12 May, BLT 1/3 turned over its respon- 
sibilities to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and the 
SLF flew by helicopters to its ships off the coast. 
Although the operation was over for the SLF, it was 
far from over for Lieutenant Colonel Bell's battalion 
and the two battalions of the 5th Marines. On the 
12th and 13th of May, all three elements stayed in 
almost continual contact with enemy platoons and 
companies in the valley. Esslinger's battalion 
engaged an enemy battalion five kilometers east of 
Que Son the evening of the 13th. After an exchange 
of mortar and small arms fire, the battalion called in 
artillery and air strikes. As the Marines began their 
assault, aerial observers shifted supporting fires to 
block possible withdrawal. The attacking Marines 
met only token resistance as the assault moved 
through the area, but 122 Communist bodies scat- 
tered over the position attested to the ferocity of the 
battle. 

For the next two days firefights continued and ar- 
tillery missions and air strikes harried enemy units as 
they tried to avoid the Marines in the valley. The 
devastation caused by supporting arms became most 
apparent on the afternoon of 14 May when Bell's 
Company D found 68 dead enemy soldiers in one 
location, all killed by fragments or concussion. 

The last major battle of the operation took place 
on 15 May, when the 5th Marines' Companies A and 
M found another bunker complex. Artillery and air 
strikes pounded the fortifications as the Marines 
maneuvered into assault positions. After the heavy 
preparation fires, the Marines attacked. They met 
only light resistance and secured the position quick- 
ly. They counted 22 enemy bodies in what remained 
of the fortifications. 

The next day. Lieutenant Colonel Bell's battalion, 
following its orders, departed the valley and return- 



68 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



ed to the Da Nang TAOR. The following morning 
Colonel Houghton closed down Operation Union. It 
had lasted for 27 days, during which time the 
Marines killed 865 enemy troops; including a 
reported 486 who were NVA regulars of the 2dNVA 
Division. The Marines suffered 110 killed, 2 missing 
in action, and 473 wounded. 

Although the number of enemy casualties was 
large, Colonel Houghton believed that the 
psychological impact of Operation Union on the 
population of the basin was even more important. 
As he stated: 

The prolonged operations by the 3 th Marines in the 
agriculturally rich Hiep Duc-Que Son-Thang Binh corridor 
broke the VC control of the area that had spanned almost 
twenty years. With the establishment of two permanent 
bases deep in this corridor, the fixing and subsequent 
destruction of hundreds of the enemy, the capture of 
significant quantities of supplies, equipment and 
weapons, the enemy loss in prestige in the eyes of the peo- 
ple is readily apparent. The psychological impact of 
Operation Union equalled or even exceeded the material 
damage to the Communist effort in this area of 
operations." 

Despite this optimistic opinion, enemy influence 
in the Que Son Basin was far from erased. The 1st 
Battalion, 5th Marines, which assumed the respon- 
sibility for the Nui Loc Son outpost and established 
its battalion command post on Hill 5 1 west of the 
village of Que Son, had daily skirmishes with enemy 
forces remaining in the area. Continuing activity 
substantiated reports that the 3d and 21st NVA 
Regiments were moving back into the basin. Opera- 
tion Union II was the response. 

Union II 

Union II, like Union I, involved coordination with 
the 6th ARVN Regiment and the 1st ARVN Ranger 
Group. The 1st and 3d Battalions, 5th Marines once 
again became the maneuver elements for III MAF's 
portion of the operation. The operation plan 
directed Hilgartner's 1st Battalion to establish block- 
ing positions in the western portion of the valley. 
The three RVN Ranger Group battalions were to at- 
tack southwest from Thang Binh, while two units of 
the 6th ARVN Regiment were to attack northwest 
from a position near Tam Ky. Essingler's 3d Bat- 
talion would move by helicopters into the southern 
portion of the basin and sweep northeast. The 
ARVN named their part of the operation Lien Kit 
106. 




li 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC^ A370448 
Shortly after landing from helicopters at the begin- 
ning of Operation Union II, this rifleman and the 
rest of Company L, as well as Company M, 3d Battal- 
ion, 3th Marines attack a fortified North Vietnamese 
position firing upon helicopters in the landing zone. 



On the morning of 26 May, Esslinger's Marines, 
three companies and a command group, made a 
heliborne assault into an area five kilometers east of 
Nui Loc Son outpost. Company L's first two waves 
experienced only sniper fire as they landed at LZ 
Eagle, but as Company M and the command group 
landed, heavy small arms and mortar fire struck the 
LZ. At 1134 the enemy defenders shot down a 
CH-46 over the LZ. As Company I landed. Com- 
panies L and M attacked north to relieve the pressure 
on the LZ. The attacking companies found a well- 
entrenched enemy force northeast of the landing 
zone. While artillery and air strikes pounded the 
NVA positions. Company I moved to the northeast 
to envelop the enemy's flank, and in the face of 
strong resistance drove through the position. 
Fighting continued throughout the afternoon. 
When the Marines finally overran the last enemy 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



69 



; 100 .' 

%:: ^-x \oo 



Operation Union II 

Nui Loo Son Basin 

Action of 26 - 29 May 




70 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A42 1853 

Low rice paddy dikes provided the only available cover for these men from the 5d Bat- 
talion, 3th Marines after debarking on 26 May from helicopters of HMM-361. This 
photograph, taken from a helicopter, shows the barrel of the crew's M-60 machine gun. 



positions at 1630, they counted 118 dead NVA 
soldiers scattered over the battlefield. The 3d Bat- 
talion lost 38 killed and 82 wounded, including 
Lieutenant Colonel Esslinger, who was wounded in 
the eye. 

While the Marines of Esslinger's battalion 
engaged the enemy force, Hilgartner's Marines 
established blocking positions to the northwest as 
planned. The ARVN ranger and infantry elements 
closed from the northeast and southeast to box in the 
enemy. For the next three days, all four forces swept 
the area. There were only isolated exchanges of fire; 
once more the 3d NVA Regiment had withdrawn 
from the basin. Convinced that the enemy had 
escaped, the South Vietnamese ended their opera- 
tion, but Colonel Houghton did not believe that all 
the NVA forces had left the Que Son region. 

After analyzing available intelligence, Houghton 
decided to change the direction of attack toward the 
hills along the southern rim of the basin, southeast 
of the 3d Battalion's battle area of the 26th. On 30 
May, he had his two battalions flown into the area by 
helicopter and began a sweep to the northeast. Their 
advance encountered only long-range sniper fire. By 
the afternoon of 1 June, both battalions had 



reentered the basin and moved northwest generally 
toward the site of the original 26 May contact. 

On 2 June, the Marines moved out, two battalions 
abreast, with the 1st Battalion on the right. Objec- 
tive Foxtrot in the Vinh Huy Village complex was 
their destination. By 0930, the two lead companies 
of the 3d Battalion were under heavy fire from 200 
dug-in North Vietnamese troops 1,000 meters east 
of the objective, and roughly 3,000 meters east of 
the scene of the 3d Battalion's heavy action on 26 
May. By 1300, after savage fighting and extensive 
use of supporting arms, the Marines overran the 
position. As the companies consolidated and began 
to evacuate their casualties, a helicopter took a direct 
hit from a 57mm recoilless rifle, killing one Marine 
and wounding seven others. 

While the units of the 3d Battalion, now com- 
manded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Webster, 
engaged the enemy, Hilgartner's 1st Battalion push- 
ed forward to relieve the pressure. The battalion 
moved with Company D on the right and an attach- 
ed company. Company F, 5th Marines, on the left. 
About 1130, Company D began crossing a 
1,000-meter- wide rice paddy that contained a 
horseshoe-shaped hedgerow. The location of the 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



71 



! 5-J51 



Operation Union II 

Nui Log Son Basin 

Action of 30 May-2 June 




72 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



hedgerow was such that the Marines could not ap- 
proach it except by crossing the open paddy. When 
the company was halfway across the field, well- 
camouflaged NVA troops in fortified positions in 
the horseshoe opened fire. The enemy fire swept the 
Marines' front and left flank, catching the left flank 
platoons in a crossfire. The reserve platoon tried to 
envelop the enemy, but heavy automatic weapons 
fire forced it back. The Marines consolidated their 
positions while artillery and air strikes softened up 
the enemy fortifications. 

Company F, commanded by Captain James A. 
Graham, was in serious trouble on Company D's 
left. Initially, Graham's unit moved under the cover 
of air and artillery strikes and encountered only 
sniper fire. As it began crossing a large open paddy 
area, a Kit Carson Scout with the company started 
shooting at several mats of hay lying in the paddy.* 
The NVA had concealed themselves under the mats 
and the Marines killed 31 of them as the company 
advanced. 

As the company continued across the open area, 
mortar and automatic weapons fire inflicted many 
casualties. Hardest hit was the 2d Platoon; two con- 
cealed enemy machine guns stopped it in the middle 
of the open field. Captain Graham quickly organiz- 
ed his small headquarters group into an assault unit 
and attacked through the 2d Platoon's position, forc- 
ing the North Vietnamese to abandon one of their 
guns. With some of the pressure relieved, the pla- 
toon moved some of the wounded to a more secure 
area. Captain Graham then tried to silence the 
second gun, but was unsuccessful. Wounded twice 
by this time and with his men's ammunition ex- 
hausted, the captain ordered his Marines to move 
back to friendly positions while he stayed behind to 
protect a wounded man who could not be moved. 
The last word over the radio from Captain Graham 
was that 25 enemy soldiers were attacking his posi- 
tion.** 

At 1420, Lieutenant Colonel Hilgartner's CP came 
under heavy mortar, recoilless rifle, and RPG fire. 
Despite the extensive use of air and artillery by the 
Marines, the Communist force was too well dug-in 
and too big for the battalion to dislodge. Colonel 
Houghton, advised of the situation, asked for help. 
Since his 3d Battalion was already involved in heavy 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370265 

PFC George Hase of Company M, 5d Battalion, 5th 
Marines reflects on the initial combat of Operation 
Union U when casualties sustained from North Viet- 
namese fire forced him to shift from ammunition 
carrier to assistant gunner on his machine gun team. 

fighting, he asked for the commitment of the divi- 
sion reserve. Lieutenant Colonel Mallett C.Jackson, 
Jr.'s 2d Battalion, 3th Marines. Major General Donn 
J. Robertson, a Navy Cross holder who had just 
assumed command of the division on 1 June, con- 
curred and the 2d Battalion prepared to move out by 
helicopter to join in the battle.* The three com- 
panies that made up Lieutenant Colonel Jackson's 
force for this operation were his own Company E; 
Company D from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines; 
and Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines.** 

The 5th Marines' commander paved the way for 
the 2d Battalion's entry into the operation by order- 
ing 90 minutes of air and artillery preparation of the 
planned landing zone. He intended to insert the 
battalion northeast of the enemy position so it could 
drive south into the left flank of the NVA force. By 
1900, the battalion command group and two com- 



*Kit Carson Scouts were former enemy soldiers used by the 
Marines. The program is discussed in detail in Chapter 11. 

**Captain Graham received the Medal Of Honor posthumously 
for his action. See Appendix D for complete citation. 



♦General Nickerson, who had commanded the 1st Marine Divi- 
sion since September 1966, became Deputy Commanding 
General, III MAP, upon his relief. 

**Colonel Hilgartner later described the insertion of Lieutenant 
Colonel Jackson's battalion as crucial. "Mai Jackson's entry into 
the battle saved the day for us," he remembered. Colonel Peter L. 
Hilgartner, Comments on draft ms, 2Jun81 (Vietnam Comment 
file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 



73 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3 70268 

During the last few days of May, two Marine battalions, engaged in Operation Union 11, 
searched the rugged mountains found along the southern rim of the Que Son Basin. 



panics had landed. They were unopposed and quick- 
ly organized the position. 

As night fell, one of Jackson's companies still had 
not arrived. Aware of the urgency of the tactical 
situation facing Hilgartner's battalion, and concern- 
ed about the fate of Captain Graham's company 
from his own battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson 
requested permission to begin his attack without the 
missing company.'"* Colonel Houghton concurred. 
Leaving a security platoon in the landing zone, 
Jackson maneuvered his force south against the 
enemy. The battalion had not gone far in the 
darkness before it collided with an NVA force trying 
to withdraw to the north. The Marines quickly drove 
through the Communists and continued south. 

The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines suffered almost 20 
casualties in this initial contact. To evacuate the 
wounded, the battalion's forward air controller call- 
ed in a passing CH-53. The pilot landed his 
helicopter in the middle of the command post, not 
far from where Company E still engaged the enemy. 
As Marines completed loading the wounded, an 
enemy mortar round landed just to the rear of the 
aircraft and enemy automatic weapons took it under 
direct fire. The pilot quickly took off. The 2d Bat- 
talion later heard that, on its arrival at Da Nang, 



ground crews counted approximately 58 holes in the 
helicopter." 

The sudden presence of a strong force on its 
northern flank caused the NVA units to disengage 
and make a hasty withdrawal to the southwest, but 
the move proved costly. Once NVA soldiers left the 
protection of their fortifications, they were easy 
targets for Marine supporting arms fire. Air strikes 
were devastating. On one occasion two F-4 aircraft 
used an unusual technique of target acquisition 
which proved especially effective. The first aircraft 
approached the area at low speed and switched on its 
landing and running lights. When the enemy fired 
at the plane, the second aircraft, following closely 
behind without lights, spotted the enemy and drop- 
ped napalm on the firing positions. 

While supporting arms fire hastened the Com- 
munist departure from the battlefield, the 5th 
Marines spent the night regrouping and evacuating 
casualties. The following morning, all three bat- 
talions swept the battle area. The Marines counted 
476 dead North Vietnamese in and around the con- 
tested rice paddy and its formidable hedgerow com- 
plex. The Marines themselves suffered 71 killed and 
139 wounded in the fight. 

During the sweep of the battle area. Lieutenant 



74 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Major MAF Operations 

Southern ICTZ 

January-June 1967 



kilometers [ 



Colonel Hilgartner received a radio message from 
one of his companies that enemy working parties 
were out collecting the NVA dead. The company 
commander asked if he should open fire. Hilgartner 
declined for he saw this as a chance to recover his 
own dead, including Captain Graham's body. For 
the remainder of the day there was an undeclared 
truce; the two sides intermingled but ignored each 
other as they went about collecting their dead.'^ 

When the enemy main body withdrew, they 
transported their wounded on two poles lashed 
together, similar to the "travois" used by the 
American Plains Indians. The day after the 
undeclared truce, Hilgartner's battalion tried to 
follow the travois skid marks but could not catch up 
with the main body of the NVA force. Halts to call 
in helicopters to evacuate casualties caused by the 
enemy's rear guard hindered the Marines' progress. 



The NVA force escaped." 

The action on 2 June marked the last significant 
battle of Union II. Total enemy casualties were 701 
killed and 23 captured, a favorable ratio to 110 
Marines killed (the same number as during Union I) 
and 241 wounded.* 

Despite the heavy losses suffered during the two 
Union operations, throughout the summer the 
enemy continued to pump replacements into the 
region in a determined effort to regain control of the 
Que Son Valley. Elements of III MAF met and 
thwarted each Communist thrust into the area. 
Government control was returning to the region, 
and forcing the Communists to pay a big price in 
men and material. 



*For action in both Union I and II the 5th Marines and units 
under its operational control received the Presidential Unit Cita- 
tion. 



CHAPTER 6 

Task Force Oregon 



The heavy fighting of early 1967 had been an- 
ticipated by the American command. Throughout 
the fall of the previous year, both III MAF and 
MACV expressed concern over the NVA buildup 
north of the Demilitarized Zone and along the Lao- 
tian border to the west. In a 13 September 1966 
message to Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Commander 
in Chief Pacific (CinCPac), General Westmoreland 
outlined his appreciation of the threat to I Corps: 



The current enemy buildup . . . constitutes a direct 
threat to US/FW GVN forces in I CTZ and to the security 
of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. The seriousness 
of this threat underscores the imponance and urgency of 
utilizing all practicable means to prevent the enemy from 
generating a major offensive designed to 'liberate' the pro- 
vinces in question and to inflict maximum casualties on 
US/FW GVN forces. . . . 

He continues to use the DMZ as a troop haven and as a 
supply head for his forces moving into northern 1 CTZ. . . . 
The size of his buildup, disposition of forces, forward 
stcxrkage of supplies, A A weapons systems being deployed 
southward, and depth of patrols are developing an offen- 
sive as opposed to a defensive posture. By October, the 
weather in Laos will be clearing and the enemy may be ex- 
pected once again to move personnel and supporting 
material in quantity through the area. . . . Utilizing tradi- 
tional [infiltration] routes through the Laos panhandle, he 
will be able to reinforce large scale diversionary attacks fur- 
ther south in coordination with a main assault through the 
DMZ and the western flank. . . .' 



To counter the threat, the Marines established 
positions covering the eastern and central infiltration 
routes across the DMZ. They had already occupied 
Khe Sanh, to the west, in late 1966, and they took 
over the ARVN camps at Ca Lu and Ba Long, both 
astride natural routes leading east through the Cam 
Lo Valley. While the occupation of these locations 
did not entirely halt infiltration, they did make it 
more difficult, but manning the positions seriously 
depleted III MAF's strength as the year began. 

In early 1967 several developments, other than 



Vietnamese domestic problems, contributed to 
reduced III MAF troop availability. The necessity of 
protecting large bases and the resulting extension of 
the protective TAORs around them tied down a 
large number of men. The requirement to relieve 
ARVN units for redeployment to the revolutionary 
development program also drained available forces. 
The most threatening situation was the enemy troop 
buildup in Quang Ngai Province. Infiltration from 
Laos and the influx of NVA troops and supplies into 
the A Shau Valley and the mountains west of Hue 
caused some very touchy and precise repositioning of 
units. As January began, most of General Walt's 
reserve consisted of already committed forces ear- 
marked for oncall helicopter redeployment. 

MACV Headquarters appreciated the problem 
facing III MAF but viewed things from a different 
perspective. As Brigadier General Louis Metzger, the 
assistant division commander of the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion, recalled: 

On one occasion General Westmoreland told me that he 
knew that the 3d Marine Division was overextended, but 
that he was achieving a victory (words not exact but that 
was the meaning) in the II Corps Area, and we would just 
have to hold on. One really cannot fault his position as he 
was following the principle of war "Economy of Force;" 
holding with the Marines while expecting his Army 
elements to the south to achieve a victory. It did make it 
lonesome along the DMZ.^ 

For all practical purposes, these troop shortages 
reduced the allied situation in I Corps to a holding 
action. Ill MAF did not have enough troops to ex- 
pand TAORs and at the same time block NVA 
thrusts across South Vietnam's borders. Ill MAF 
needed additional forces to regain the initiative. On 
11 January, after a visit to I Corps, General Wallace 
M. Greene, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine 
Corps, commented that "... one Marine divi- 
sion/wing team reinforced or its equivalent [was 
needed] in I Corps in addition to those forces already 
there." He contended that these forces would permit 



73 



76 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




DMZ Area 



Phu Bai Area 



Infantry Battalion Location 

Prior to Arrival of 

Task Force Oregon 



kilometers l 



^"^^M^ang SaNang 
" Area 



South 
China 
Sea 



Chu Lai Area 



TASK FORCE OREGON 



77 



III MAF to counter enemy infiltration across the 
borders and regain momentum in pacifying the 
populated coastal areas. ^ At the beginning of the 
year these forces did not exist. 

After the Tet cease-fire of 8-12 February, enemy 
activity intensified. The NVA initiated aggressive ef- 
forts to offset the embryonic Revolutionary Develop- 
ment Program, while continuing the buildup of 
forces in I and II Corps. The 2d NVA Division and 
supporting battalions moved south from Quang Tin 
Province to Quang Ngai Province. This move ap- 
peared related to movement of other subordinate 
units at the turn of the year in preparation for a pro- 
posed dry season offensive in Quang Ngai. 

As enemy activity continued to intensify, both in 
southern I Corps and immediately south of the 
DMZ, on 19 February General Westmoreland 
directed his Chief of Staff, Major General William 
B. Rosson, to develop a contingency plan for the 
organization and deployment of a divisional task 
force to the troubled northern provinces. The pur- 
pose of the proposed shift was twofold: to release 
Marine units for action along the DMZ and to use 
the new force to expand the scope of operations in 
southern I Corps. Westmoreland's headquarters 
code-named the proposed task force, "Oregon." 

The Oregon plan was not the first contingency 
plan prepared for the reinforcement of III MAF. At 
the time of the first NVA thrust across the DMZ in 
mid- 1966, MACV Headquarters developed several 
schemes. The Tennessee plan proposed the move- 
ment of a U.S. Army brigade to Chu Lai. Another, 
dubbed the South Carolina plan, was to deploy an 
Army brigade to the 3d Marine Division's area of 
operation in northern I Corps, while North Carolina 
would have introduced an Army brigade into 
southern I Corps. The latter two contingency plans 
included the movement of a Republic of Korea Ar- 
my regiment to Chu Lai. During November 1966, 
General Westmoreland gave consideration to the 
deployment of the 9th Infantry Division to I Corps 
when it arrived in South Vietnam, but shelved the 
idea in December 1966 and the division moved into 
the region east of Saigon. 

While General Rosson and his staff were develop- 
ing the Oregon plan, events in I Corps forced the 
planners' hand. On 27 February, NVA forces attack- 
ed Da Nang Airbase with l40mm rockets, the first 
known use of large tactical rockets by the enemy in 
South Vietnam. The Da Nang attack preceded 
rocket attacks on Camp Carroll in Quang Tri Pro- 



vince on 6 and 12 March and another attack on Da 
Nang on 15 March.* The rockets were the enemy's 
most economical weapon of the war. They were easi- 
ly transported, usually backpacked, and required on- 
ly a few personnel for installation and employment. 
The February Da Nang attack demonstrated the 
speed with which the rockets could be launched. 
More than 50 rockets hit the base in less than a 
minute. 

With the introduction of rockets, the Marines ex- 
panded their protective patrolling out to a range of 
9,000 meters, rather than 5,000 meters, the max- 
imum effective range of heavy mortars which had 
been the primary concern before the rocket threat. 
The speed with which the rockets could be employed 
also required the Marines to deliver counterbattery 
fire on the rocket launching positions in a matter of 
two to three minutes, a factor which complicated the 
already complex problem of coordinating the use of 
air and artillery in populated areas. 

Rocket attacks were not the only indication that 
the enemy's main target was I Corps. During the first 
six weeks after Tet, enemy attacks increased by ap- 
proximately twice the 1966 rate. Enemy expen- 
ditures of artillery, mortar, recoilless rifle, and rocket 
ammunition for the month of March were 5,057 
rounds, compared to 2,183 in January and 2,656 in 
February. 

At the same time, the NVA buildup continued 
along the DMZ. Intelligence agencies reported that 
elements of another division, including fire support 
units, had reinforced the 524B and 541 st NVA Divi- 
sions. Captured prisoners and documents verified 
the presence of the new units. Increased mortar fire 
and the employment of artillery and rockets con- 
firmed the arrival of the fire support units. The 
seriousness of these developments was even more ap- 
parent when Marine intelligence officers learned that 
the NVA forces in the northern provinces of Quang 
Tri and Thua Thien were under the control of North 
Vietnamese Army Military Region 4, with head- 
quarters in Vinh above the DMZ. The North Viet- 
namese considered the targeted provinces as a 
subregion of this command. 



*The rockets employed in the attack against Camp Carroll were 
102mm Communist copies of the U.S. 4.3-inch barrage rocket, 
with a range of 5,000 meters. The l40mm Soviet rocket used at 
Da Nang had a range of almost 9,000 meters. 



FIGHITNG THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



In an 18 March message to Admiral Sharp, 
General Westmoreland reflected his concern over 
the growing threat to I Corps. He stated: 



In I Corps, the situation is the most critical with respect 
to existing and potential force ratios. As a minimum, a 
division plus a regiment is required for Quang Tri Province 
as a containment force. The latter had been justified 
previously in another plan. Employment of this force in 
the containment role would release the units now engaged 
there for expansion of the Da Nang, Hue-Phu Bai, and 
Chu Lai TAORs as well as increase security and control 
along the corps' northern coastal areas. One of the most 
critical areas in RVN today is Quang Ngai Province. Even if 
a major operation were conducted in this area during 
1967, the relief would be no more than temporary. A force 
is needed in the province to maintain continuous pressure 
on the enemy, to eliminate his forces and numerous base 
areas, and to remove his control over the large population 
and food reserves. The sustained employment of a division 
of 10 battalions is mandatory in Quang Ngai Province if 
desired results are to be realized. Employment of this force 
would provide security for the vital coastal areas facilities, 
opening and securing Route 1 and the railroad and, 
perhaps equally important, to relieve pressure on northern 
Binh Dinh Province* 



One week later, on 25 March, reconnaissance 
photographs verified increased infiltration of the Tri 
Thien subregion. They revealed five new bivouac 
areas and two possible way stations on infiltration 
routes from Base Area 6O6 in central Laos to western 
Quang Tri Province. The photographs also pin- 
pointed new bivouac areas along infiltration routes 
in the northern A Shau Valley, indicating reinforce- 
ment in that region. Equally alarming, the NVA 
continued to hold three divisions in or near the 
DMZ, despite heavy casualties suffered during the 
Marines' recently conducted Operations Prairie II 
and Beacon Hill. 

At the same time, enemy activity in southern 
Quang Nam and Quang Tin increased; the enemy 
made multicompany attacks near Tam Ky. A high- 
ranking Communist officer, Colonel Haynh Cu, 
who surrendered to III MAF forces in early March, 
stated that the Que Son Basin would be a major ob- 
jective for the forthcoming NVA summer campaign, 
scheduled to begin during April. He also revealed 
that Operation Desoto had uncovered a primary sup- 
ply route which the VC believed required their con- 
trol for effective operations in that region. This 
revelation added to the indications that Due Pho 
would remain a primary enemy objective. 



In a 28 March followup message to CinCPac, 
General Westmoreland reiterated his earlier sen- 
timents regarding additional forces required in I 
Corps, but this message reflected his increased con- 
cern over the growing enemy threat. General 
Westmoreland stated: 

Failure to provide two and one-third divisions for I 
Corps would result in the diversion of existing forces from 
other tasks to deny and defeat infiltration or invasion. 
Security in support of Revolutionary Development could 
not be increased to the desired degree in the coastal area, 
the major LOC's could be able to continue operating vir- 
tually unmolested throughout the key Quang Ngai Pro- 
vince.' 

If this force were available, Westmoreland 
estimated that III MAF could make gains in 1967, 
especially in the restoration of the populated areas of 
I Corps to secure GVN control. Unfortunately, the 
additional forces were not available. 

The first week of April confirmed the need for 
reinforcements as the enemy increased pressure 
throughout the five northern provinces. Intensified 
terrorism and regimental-size attacks marked the 
opening days of the month. On 6 April, a large 
enemy force broke into Quang Tri City, inflicting 
severe losses and permitting more than 200 VC 
prisoners to escape from the local jail. This was the 
first large-unit incursion into a provincial capital 
since early in 1965. The Quang Tri attack preceded 
an attack on an ARVN regimental headquarters 10 
miles north of the city of Hue. Generals Walt and 
Westmoreland agreed that these incidents heralded 
a large-scale, coordinated enemy offensive in the two 
northern provinces. On 6 April, therefore. General 
Westmoreland decided to execute the Task Force 
Oregon plan. 

As conceived and refined by General Rosson's 
staff, Operation Oregon was to be executed in three 
separate phases. First, an army brigade from II Corps 
was to move into the Due Pho district. Two days 
later a second brigade from III Corps was to begin 
movement to Chu Lai, and at a later date a third 
brigade, and possibly a fourth, was to be shifted into 
the area. The Task Force Oregon headquarters was to 
be activated on the 12th, to arrive at Chu Lai no later 
than 20 April. 

By the afternoon of the 7th, the headquarters of 
the 2d Brigade, 5th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Divi- 
sion, and two battalions, arrived at Due Pho and 
relieved the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines. The size and 
mobility of the Army force impressed the Marines. 



TASK FORCE ORGEON 



79 



The Marine battalion commander, Lieutenant Col- 
onel John D. Counselman, recalled, "They had so 
many 'choppers' that the company defensive areas of 
3/7 were occupied in less than an hour. . . ."^ 

The use of the 1st Air Cavalry unit was only tem- 
porary; according to the Oregon plan it was to be 
replaced by the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division 
before the end of April. To accomplish the logistical 
support for this unit, MACV temporarily included 
the two southernmost districts of Quang Ngai Pro- 
vince, Due Pho and Ba To, in the 1st Air Cavalry 
Division's TAOR, pending the arrival of the Task 
Force Oregon headquarters. 

On 9 April, Brigadier General Richard T. 
Knowles' 196th Light Infantry Brigade of four bat- 
talions began arriving at Chu Lai. The brigade com- 
pleted the move on the l4th, and the infantrymen 
assumed operational tasks in the Chu Lai area under 
the control of the 1st Marine Division. On 17 April, 
the brigade initiated Operation Lawrence, west of 
the airfield. This was the first U.S. Army operation 
in I Corps. Although the soldiers made no contact 
with the enemy during the three days of Lawrence, 
they gained a familiarity with their area of opera- 
tion. 

The task force command group activated as 
scheduled on 12 April. The headquarters and 
selected combat support and combat service support 
units began deploying to Chu Lai. Task Force 
Oregon headquarters became operational on 20 
April and assumed control of all Army forces 
operating from Chu Lai. The task force commander 
was Major General William B. Rosson, the former 
MACV chief of staff and author of the original 
Oregon plan. When Colonel James G. Shanahan's 
3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division arrived at Due 
Pho two days later, it also came under control of 
Task Force Oregon. Combat support for the task 
force consisted of four artillery battalions, an 
engineer battalion, and one medium and three light 
helicopter companies. 

The arrival of the Army units allowed the Marines 
to concentrate in the northern three provinces of I 
Corps. The 7th Marines moved from Chu Lai to the 
Da Nang TAOR, completing the move on 13 April. 
The consolidation of the 1st Marine Division at Da 
Nang permitted the 3d Marine Division, in turn, to 
concentrate its regiments in the northern part of I 
Corps. 

The shift that produced the most immediate 
results occurred on 25 April when the 5th Marines, 




Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC 639323 
A Marine amphibian tractor carries members of the 
Army's 196th Light Infantry Brigade on a village 
search on 27 April, after Task Force Oregon took 
control of the former Marine enclave at Chu Lai. 

with two battalions, moved into the Thang Binh 
area and assumed responsibility for operations in the 
Que Son Valley. The second of the two battalions 
did not arrive in the valley until 1 May because of a 
delay in the turn-over of its portion of the Chu Lai 
TAOR. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines served as a 
separate battalion under the direct control of the 1st 
Marine Division with responsibility for the security 
of the An Hoa industrial complex 22 miles southwest 
of Da Nang. 

With the shifting of these forces, the Marines 
deactivated Task Force X-Ray at 1200 on 26 April 
and Task Force Oregon, under III MAF operational 
control, assumed responsibility for all of the Chu Lai 
TAOR, including the Chu Lai Base Defense Com- 
mand. The turnover went smoothly. The Army units 
were not equipped or manned to handle postal ser- 
vices, an exchange system, or a clubs system. Since 
the Marines previously had organized those services 
at Chu Lai, Marine personnel remained in place un- 
til the Army units took over these functions or 
substituted their own systems. 

Chu Lai continued to be the home of a large com- 
ponent of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Force 
Logistic Support Group Bravo, and the 7th Com- 
munications Battalion. In addition, approximately 
200 Marines assigned to combined action units also 



80 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




DMZ Area 

[gamed i Bl)) 



Phu Bai Area 



Infantry Battalion Realignments 

Resulting from Deployment of 

Task Force Oregon 

as of 30 April 1967 


kilometers i 



Cambodia 



South 



Da 

Nang DaNang 

'— Area 

(gBined 2 BNS) China 



TASK FORCE OREGON 



remained in the area. Brigadier General Foster C. 
LaHue, the former commanding general of Task 
Force X-Ray, stayed at Chu Lai as the installation 
coordinator. The command relationship between 
General Rosson and General LaHue was one of 
mutual coordination and cooperation, under the 
authority of General Walt. 

During the first week of May, Brigadier General 
Salve H. Matheson's 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne 
Division joined Task Force Oregon. These additional 
battalions of the 1st Brigade permitted General 
Rosson to open a new offensive campaign in the im- 
portant coastal region south of Quang Ngai City. On 
11 May, five U.S. Army battalions began Operation 
Malheur in the area immediately north of what had 
been the Desoto TAOR. By the end of May, this ex- 
tensive heliborne search and destroy operation had 
succeeded in killing 369 Communists and capturing 
64. 

Malheur II followed Malheur I and produced even 
better results. Experiencing almost daily contact with 
the Communists, the soldiers killed 488 of the 
enemy before the operation ended on 2 August. 
Both operations concentrated upon eliminating 
regular enemy formations in the area to reduce the 
pressure upon the rural populace. Once they ac- 
\ complished this, the soldiers shifted their emphasis 

Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC 6393 18 

Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade search a 
deserted village in April as Army units gain familiarity with the Chu Lai tactical area 
after Task Force Oregon took responsibility for the region from the 1st Marine Division. 

Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC 639319 





82 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




;^a«#dllk^ 




Depanment of Defense Photo (USA) SC 640815 



American soldiers (top) of the 2d Battalion, 35 th Infantry advance toward a tree line 
under enemy fire near Due Pho in May in Operation Malheur, conducted by Task Force 
Oregon after it assumed control of the Chu Lai area. As enemy fire increases (below), an 
armored personnel carrier of the 5 d Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment fires in support. 

Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC 640811 

to eliminating the guerrilla infrastructure. During 
the ensuing months, the Viet Cong found it increas- 
ingly difficult to obtain support from the people in 
the surrounding countryside. 



<K. 




The introduction of Task Force Oregon was only 
the first step in the buildup and realignment of 
forces in I Corps. The second step was the temporary 
commitment of the CinCPac reserve, the Seventh 
Fleet's Amphibious Ready Group with Special Lan- 
ding Forces Alpha and Bravo. In mid-May, BLT 3/4, 
the last major element of the Marines' Western 
Pacific reserve, arrived in a 42-plane shuttle at Dong 
Ha to participate in Operation Hickory. The 26th 
Marines' regimental headquarters followed from 
Okinawa to provide the operational control of units 
in the Khe Sanh area in northwestern Quang Tri 
Province.* 






ilaE.j*.^'*: l-^!"!-,-"'. 



*The movement of BLT 3/4 and the 26th Marines headquarters 
to Vietnam ended unit rotation to Okinawa for refitting and 
retraining. This was a real loss to the Marine units fighting in Viet- 
nam. LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981), 
(Vietnam Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



TASK FORCE OREGON 



83 





01 




Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC 640809 

A platoon leader of Company C, 2d Battalion, 33th Infantry Regiment radios for a 
medevac helicopter after an encounter with an enemy unit in May's Operation Malheur. 



The large number of enemy casualties in I Corps 
during the month of May reflected some of the im- 
pact of the sudden III MAF reinforcement. In I 
Corps 6,119 enemy died fighting the Americans, 
compared with a total of 3,723 in the other three 
corps areas. The surprise arrival of 12 new U.S. bat- 
talions and the reshuffle of forces already in I Corps 



upset the Communists' plans. They did not find the 
coastal plains undefended as expected, and Hanoi 
demanded adherence to the plan. The ability of the 
allies to reinforce I Corps against the anticipated 
summer campaign cost the Communists a high price 
in troops lost and doomed North Vietnam's hopes 
for a resounding 1967 summer victory. 



PART III 

CONTINUING ACTION 

ALONG THE DMZ 



CHAPTER 7 

The Barrier— Another Approach 

Evolution of the Concept 



Evolution of the Concept 

The arrival of Task Force Oregon with its nine 
maneuver battalions vastly changed the friendly to 
enemy troop ratio in I Corps. The increase was in- 
tended to give III MAF much more flexibility, but 
this is not the way it worked out. At the time of 
Oregon's addition, General Westmoreland directed 
General Walt to begin a task which ultimately tied 
down as many III MAF units as TF Oregon added. 
The task was the construction of a barrier or strong- 
point obstacle system below the DMZ. 

The idea of a DMZ barrier had been under discus- 
sion in Washington for months. In March of 1966, 
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara raised the 
question of a barrier with the JCS' which, in turn, 
requested the views of Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, 
CinCPac, on the construction of a conventional mine 
and wire barrier to be backed up by monitoring 
troops. The proposed barrier was to extend from the 
South China Sea across northern South Vietnam 
through the panhandle of Laos to Thailand. 

The CinCPac staff studied the idea and in April 
Admiral Sharp pointed out a number of problem 
areas with the concept. The problems included the 
tremendous strain that the project would place on 
logistic facilities in both South Vietnam and 
Thailand, the enormous construction effort, and the 
large number of troops it would require before, dur- 
ing, and after completion. Admiral Sharp also ex- 
pressed his opinion that the barrier would deny the 
advantages of maneuverability to friendly forces. 

September 1966 brought another proposal, this 
one the result of a study conducted by a panel of 
scientists under the auspices of the Institute for 
Defense Anaylses. Known as the Jason Plan, the 
study proposed the employment of an aviation sup- 
ported barrier system across infiltration routes into 
South Vietnam and Laos. This barrier was to consist 
of two parts: one to block foot traffic and one to stop 
vehicles. The foot traffic barrier was to be placed 
along the southern edge of the DMZ, while the 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189042 
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, shown 
here during his visit to MAG- 11 in July, believed a 
barrier system south of the DMZ would retard the 
move of NVA combat units into South Vietnam. 

antivehicle system was to be built in Laos where the 
Communists were developing an extensive road net- 
work. The barriers were to consist of large numbers 
of gravel mines, button bomblets, and acoustic 
detectors, supported by patrol and strike aircraft.* 
Ground personnel, tasked to emplace detectors and 
plant mines would man the portion of the barrier in 
South Vietnam. 

Admiral Sharp forwarded his response to the Jason 

Plan to JCS on 13 September 1966. The reply 

, pointed out that while the establishment of an avia- 

I tion supported barrier might be technically feasible, 

CinCPac doubted that such a barrier would impede 

; infiltration, even initially. He maintained that "a 



*Gravel mines are small mines designed to damage feet and 
legs. Button bomblets are small mines which make a loud report, 
but are not designed to injure when stepped on by a shod foot; 
they make a noise to be picked up by acoustic sensors. 



86 



THE BARRIER - ANOTHER APPROACH 



87 



barrier system must be tended; if not, it could be 
breached with ease, while the flow of men and 
material to the VC/NVA continued." An aerial 
delivered obstacle would not be expected to sup- 
plant the need for soldiers on the ground, and the 
time, effort and resources of men and material re- 
quired to establish a ground barrier would be 
tremendous."^ 

While military leaders showed little enthusiasm 
for the barrier schemes. Secretary of Defense 
McNamara believed that the ideas had merit. On 15 
September, he appointed Lieutenant General Alfred 
D. Starbird, USA, director of the Defense Com- 
munications Agency, to head a joint task force 
within the Department of Defense with the mission 
of devising an anti-infiltration system that would 
stop, or at least inhibit, the flow of men and 
material from North to South Vietnam. The mission 
envisioned wide usage of air dropped munitions and 
electronic sensors to establish the barrier. This direc- 
tive formally established the program that was to 
become known as Project Practice Nine. 

In October 1966, General Westmoreland sug- 
gested to Secretary McNamara, as an alternative to 
previous recommendations, that a conventional bar- 

Irier utilizing strong points could be constructed 
across all of northern South Vietnam. This barrier 
would be augmented by selective use of air delivered 
munitions and sensors in Laos. Key terrain was to be 
organized behind the barrier, with observation posts 
and patrols integrated into the scheme. Reaction 
forces were to be emplaced to respond if the barrier 
was breached. General Westmoreland believed that 
a division, supported by an armored cavalry regi- 
ment, would be needed as the containment force. 
Secretary McNamara told General Westmoreland 
that he was receptive to the concept and requested 
that the idea be refined into a requirement plan. At 
the same time, the Secretary charged the Starbird 
task force with functioning as an expediting agency 
to obtain and deliver munitions, sensors, and equip- 
ment to support the MACV concept. 

General Westmoreland ordered his staff and all 
involved subordinate commands to develop the 
plan. The burden of preparing the aviation portion 
fell on the Seventh Air Force; III MAF and the 
MACV Combat Operations Center were to provide 
the concept for the conduct of mobile defense and 
conventional barrier aspects. 

General Walt ordered the 3d Marine Division to 
prepare the Marine portion of the concept, since any 



implementation of the idea would directly affect 
that command. His only guidance to General Kyle, 
the division commander, was that he wanted the 
report to begin with a statement that III MAF 
disagreed with the barrier idea and preferred the 
mobile defense currently being employed.' General 
Kyle, briefing Walt on the division plan, also in- 
dicated his preference for a mobile concept, stating: 

A mobile defense by the size of the force envisioned for 
manning the barrier system (one and one-third divisions) 
would in itself provide an effective block to infiltration 
south of the DMZ, and in the process negate the necessity 
for construction of the barrier.'' / 

After the III MAF staff reviewed General Kyle's 
plan. General Walt forwarded it to General 
Westmoreland. His covering letter made III MAF's 
view quite clear, stating, "... this plan was being 
submitted in response to a directive, and that it was 
the opinion of the Commanding General III MAF 
that such a barrier, in effect, was not going to be 
worth the time and the effort that would be put into 
it."' 

On 26 November, General Westmoreland for- 
warded the plan to the Secretary of Defense after ad- 
ditional refining at MACV Headquarters. As sub- 
mitted, it called for a linear barrier immediately 
south of the DMZ, extending from the South China 
Sea to a point near Dong Ha Mountain, a distance of 
approximately 30 kilometers. This portion of the 
barrier was to be 600-1,000 meters wide, consisting 
of wire obstacles, minefields, sensors, watch towers, 
and a series of strong points. The line was to be back- 
ed up by an armored unit. From the west end of this 
linear barrier to the Laotian border there were to be a 
series of about 20 defile barriers, each to consist of a 
minefield and wire obstacles extending roughly 
1,000 meters across the avenue of approach to be 
blocked by the barrier. Manned strong points were 
to occupy commanding hills and ridgelines overlook- 
ing these obstacles. The plan called for a division to 
man this portion of the system. 

The plan also required the construction of artillery 
positions along Route 9 to provide fire support for 
the system. These positions also were to house the 
reaction forces needed to support the strong points. 
Other construction projects included in the plan 
were the improvement of Routes 1 and 9, expansion 
of the Cua Viet port facility, and the establishment 
of a major airfield near Hue. 

After reviewing the proposal, Secretary McNamara 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



directed General Starbird on 19 December to 
prepare a procurement program to provide the 
materials for the linear section of the barrier. The 
materials were to be in South Vietnam by July 1967. 
Although the Secretary's memorandum did not 
specify an exact date for commitment of the 
materials, it stated that at least a part of the system 
should be operational by 1 November 1967. On 22 
December 1966, General Starbird submitted his 
proposal which specified the time schedule to be 
followed and funding and personnel needed by 1 
November.^ 

As 1967 began, MACV was preparing a new Prac- 
tice Nine Requirement Plan to conform with the 
timetable in the Starbird proposal. On 26 January 
MACV completed this plan and forwarded it for 
review. The study provided the concepts and 
estimated troop and logistic requirements to support 
the anti-infiltration system for the eastern portion of 
the area as outlined in the earlier plan. The system 
was to consist of a series of strong points and fortified 
base areas. Barbed wire and minefield obstacles were 
to be emplaced forward of the strong points to deny 
the enemy likely avenues of approach and restrict 
movement, while sensors, detector devices, night 
observation devices, searchlights, and radar were to 
be used to locate the enemy. The strong points and 
base areas occupying key terrain features were to be 
constructed by tactical units under the supervision of 
engineers. The positions were to serve as both patrol 
and fire support bases. On-call, preplanned artillery 
fires were to cover the entire area, and tactical air- 
craft were to be available on short notice for support. 
Reaction forces were to be stationed behind the 
system in positions from which they could deploy 
rapidly. All civilians were to be relocated behind the 
system. The plan envisioned that future strong 
points and obstacles possibly would be extended 
westward to the Laotian border, but the westward 
expansion would be contingent upon time, forces, 
I material, and security conditions. 

The study group also cautioned that the term 

"barrier" should not be used, because the connota- 

ji'tion of an impregnable defense exceeded the scope 

I of this system, and that an effective obstacle system 

('across northern South Vietnam would require, at a 

minimum, an additional force of one division and 



N: 



augmented with supply, maintenance, construction, 
transportation, and other support units.' 

Despite the apparent growing interest in the 
strong point obstacle system (SPOS) at MACV, the 
Marines' opinions of the concept remained unchang- 
ed. In January, at a briefing held for Under Secretary 
of the Navy Robert H. B. Baldwin at the 3d Marine 
Division Headquarters, the briefing officer 
reiterated the III MAF view of the barrier concept: 

To sum it all up, we're not enthusiastic over any barrier 
defense approach to the infiltration problem. . . . We 
believe thaf a mobile defense by an adequate force, say 
one division, give or take a battalion, would be a much .j 
more flexible and economical approach to the problem.' If 

III MAF was not the only command that had reser- 
vations about the idea. On 6 February, a CinCPac 
message to JCS admitted that the SPOS was feasible, 
but questioned the necessity for one. The message 
stated: 

The level of infiltration in the area in which the obstacle 
system is to be installed does not justify diversion of the ef- 
fort required to construct and man such a system. 
Moreover, there is no indication that present operations 
are inadequate to cope with what has been an insignificant 
infiltration problem in this particular area of SVN.' 




|lone armored cavalry regiment. The study group con- 
sidered the minimum essential additional force 
necessary to man the eastern portion of the system to 
be orie_ infantry brigade, or Marine regiment. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369973 
The 5 d Marine Division staff briefed Under Secretary 
of the Navy Robert H. B. Baldwin, shown here 
visiting a refugee center in January 1961 , on the III 
MAF view that a mobile defense of the DMZ region 
was better than building an extensive barrier system. 



THE BARRIER- ANOTHER APPROACH 



89 



Despite opposition from concerned Marine and 
Navy commanders, on 8 March Secretary McNamara 
ordered General Starbird to procure the materials for 
strong points and base camps, and enough sensors 
and surveillance devices to service a 10-kilometer sec- 
tion of the obstacle system. At the same time, he 
directed the improvement of Route 1 and the ports 
at Hue and Cua Viet. He also arranged with the 
State Department to secure South Vietnam Govern- 
ment support for required land acquisition and 
civilian relocation. 

On 17 March at III MAF headquarters. General 
Westmoreland met with General Walt, General Lam 
of the ARVN I Corps, and other GVN represen- 
tatives to explain the basic concept of a strong point 
system in northeastern Quang Tri Province. The 
ARVN representatives warmly endorsed the idea and 
suggested that an early start should be made on the 
project to take advantage of the weather. They did 
not believe that land procurement or civilian reloca- 
tion would pose any problem. 

As a result, General Westmoreland ordered 
General Walt, in coordination with General Lam, to 
prepare a plan to locate, construct, organize, and oc- 
cupy a SPOS. He also informed General Walt that 
discussion of Practice Nine with the South Viet- 
namese at this time should be limited to the SPOS.'° 

General Walt, in turn, ordered his chief, G-3 
Plans Division and III MAF Practice Nine officer. 
Lieutenant Colonel Marvin D. Volkert, to meet with 
his ARVN counterpart and begin the preparation of 
a combined barrier plan. Walt instructed Volkert to 
lead the planning and to complete the total effort 
without divulging details of the Practice Nine plan 
such as equipment and forces required. By early 
April, although no written document was in ex- 
istence nor even expected for at least 30 days, com- 
bined planning had progressed sufficiently to permit 
initial ground clearing between Con Thien and Gio 
Linh. At that time Marine spokesmen described the 
project as a modest effort to clear fields of fire and to 
install a limited obstacle system, but Lieutenant Col- 
onel Volkert had ensured that the work would fit in- 
to the Practice Nine concept. 

Although the number of Marine units involved in 
the initial clearing effort was small, it precipitated 
the basic problem that III MAF had feared would 
result from the barrier project: the loss of flexibility. 
On 19 April, a message from Westmoreland to 
CinCPac intensified the problem. General 
Westmoreland indicated that, "The mission of 



establishing a strong point /obstacle system south of 
the DMZ initially will be given to the U.S.| 
Marines. "'' General Walt expressed his concern in a'l 
26 April message to General Westmoreland, stating li 
that the assignment committed his entire 3d Marine I 
Division to the Practice Nine Plan. He pointed out * 
that ARVN participation in the anti-infiltration belt 
construction accelerated the anticipated reduction in 
his forces. 

The clearing of the area between Con Thien and 
Gio Linh was nearing completion, opening the way 
for the installation of towers, wire, strong points, 
mines, sensors, and communications. General Walt 
emphasized that the manpower required to con- 
struct and man even that portion of the system 
would not only use up all of the division's personnel, 
but also would fix all available division units in 
j)lace. General Walt observed that this was contrary 
to all previous MACV positions. 
From the outset the plan had: 

Consistently protected [the] integrity of Marine Corps 
forces in [the] northern portion of ICTZ (i.e., have infer- 
red that forces now in northern Quang Tri have not unduly 
been tied to any of the projected barrier systems). 

Recognized the requirement for significant forces over 
and above those now in place to construct and man 
whatever system is finally adopted. 

General Walt contended that both of these posi- 
tions remained valid, and maintained that unless he 
received the additional forces required to install and 
man the Practice Nine system, his capability to con- 
duct offensive actions in northern I Corps would 
cease almost immediately.'^ 

There were no additional forces available in South 
Vietnam at the time. The posting of the U.S. Army's 
Task Force Oregon to southern I Corps had reduced 
troop strength in the other three corps areas to a 
minimum. These facts, and the 1 November target 
date for the completion of the first portion of the 
SPOS, forced General Westmoreland to place the 
responsibility for the system's construction on III 
MAF, but the MACV commander did indicate that 
as additional forces became available he would use 
them to reinforce the Marines. 

By 2 May the 11th Engineer Battalion had cleared 
a 200-meter trace between Con Thien and Gio Linh 
and was starting to clear a 500-meter perimeter 
around each position. Once the battalion completed 
this task it planned to widen the 200-meter trace to 
600 meters and then extend it eastward beyond Gio 
Linh to the flood plain. While the engineers were 
clearing the land, at least one infantry battalion, but 



90 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




THE BARRIER- ANOTHER APPROACH 



91 



normally two, provided security and screening for 
the engineering effort. 

One of the major problems encountered by the 
engineers during the initial clearing of the trace was 
the large number of civilians living in the area. 
Although the government had begun the removal of 
the population in this region, it appeared that this 
would be an extremely difficult and extended task,» 
but the inception of Operation Hickory on 18 May 
changed the picture completely. One of the objec- 
tives of Hickory was to clear the entire SPOS area of 
civilians. By 23 May, GVN authorities reported that 
there were 6,000 people already at the Cam Lo tem- 
porary resettlement site. By the end of Hickory, on 
29 May, the population at Cam Lo had grown to over 
11,000; the construction zone was virtually free of 
civilians. 

On 18 June, III MAP published Operation Plan 
11-67, outlining the SPOS concept. This plan envi- 
sioned that, in its completed form, the system would 
require one U.S. regiment and one ARVN regiment, 
disposed at six strong points and three battalion base 
areas. The U.S. portion of the defense was to include 
four company strong points and two battalion base 
areas. An additional U.S. battalion was to be based 
at Dong Ha to be employed in tactical operations in 
support of the defense. 

The plan divided the construction and manning 
of the system into two phases. The first phase con- 
sisted of expansion of the trace to a 600-meter width, 
installation of a linear obstacle system, and clearing 
and construction of four strong points and three base 
areas. Concurrently, III MAP units would improve 
Routes 1, 9, and 561 and prepare a fortification 
materials storage site at Dong Ha. The plan set the 
completion date for Phase 1 as 1 November 1967.* 

The Marines planned to begin Phase 2 of the plan 
at the end of the monsoon season. It required the 
construction of the final two strong points west of 
Con Thien and continued obstacle construction on 
both flanks of the Phase 1 line. Ill MAP anticipated 
that the entire system would be completed by July 
1968. 

Although the III MAP plan had not used the 
MACV code name Practice Nine, the plans were 
identical. A partial compromise of the classified code 
name Practice Nine occurred in June, and III MAP 
received instructions to discontinue use of the Prac- 



tice Nine code name. MACV assigned the interim 
name Illinois City for use until 14 July when the 
code name Dye Marker became effective. At the 
same time, 14 July, the air-supported portion of the 
program, which was still in a conceptual stage, ac- 
quired the code name Muscle Shoals.* 

Renaming of the project was not the only change 
to occur in June. On 1 June, Lieutenant General 
Walt, the burly Marine veteran from Colorado, who 
had led III MAP since June of 1965, relinquished his 
command to Lieutenant General Robert E. 
Cushman, Jr., recipient of the Navy Cross as a bat- 
talion commander on Guam during World War II. 
General Cushman had been deputy commander at 
III MAP since early in the year. The new comman- 
ding general was well aware of the problems involv- 
ed in the construction of the anti-infiltration system, 
but, unlike his predecessor, he believed that, once 
completed, the system would free his forces for mis- 
sions elsewhere.** 

During Secretary McNamara's visit to the 3d 
Marine Division in July, the division briefed him on 
the status of Dye Marker and flew him over the con- 
struction sites. The Marines had cleared the strong 
points at Con Thien and Gio Linh to a 500-meter 
radius and had begun building bunkers in both 
positions. They had cleared the 600-meter-wide 
trace between the two strong points and extended it 
to the flood plain east of Gio Linh. The staff opinion 
was that with release of the Dye Marker materials, 
the division could finish Phase 1 of the system by the 
1 November target date. Since the monsoon would 
greatly reduce trafficability in the area, the engineers 
made a major effort to improve Routes 1,9, and 561 
which linked the strong points to the base areas. 

These accomplishments had been costly for III 
MAP. All of the forces used for clearing the strong 
point obstacle system had come from III MAP and 
they had not begun installation of wire and other 
obstacles. The amount of Marine efforts devoted to 
the Dye Marker project to that stage had been: 
(1) Direct labor: 5,795 mandays; III MAF estimated the 



*The ARVN were to construct strong points A-1 and A- 2 and 
base area C- 1 . 



*The air-supported portion of the system was the responsibili- 
ty of the Seventh Air Force and this monograph does not cover it. 

**General Cushman apparently was making the best of a bad 
situation. In his comments in 1981 on the draft of this volume, he 
wrote, "Your handling of the stupid barrier concept and opera- 
tion was even handed." Gen Robert E. Cushman, Comments on 
draft ms, 17May81 (Vietnam Comment files, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.) 



92 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



11th Engineer Battalion was applying 50 percent of its 
resources to Dye Marker. 

(2) Equipment hours: 18,440. 

(3) Equipment losses: destroyed tractors, 15; dump 
, trucks,. 2. 

(4) Personnel losses; KIA 4; WIA, 77." 

At the same time, the construction effort was 

meeting increased enemy resistance, requiring more 

security forces. Further, Marine units still had 

responsibility for their respective TAORs. The 9th 

Marines' TAOR, for example, stretched from the sea 

above Cua Viet to Con Thien in the west and as far 

/, south as the newly constructed airfield at Quang Tri. 

"Although the 9th Marines was reinforced with at 

least one additional infantry battalion and often 

itwo," recalled Colonel George E. Jerue, "the addi- 

(tional mission of assisting in the construction of the 

krace precluded any rest for the combat troops in- 

Ivolved."''' 

I One example of the effort required was that of 
Lieutenant Colonel Lee R. Bendell's 3d Battalion, 
4th Marines at Con Thien in late August and early 
September. As one company worked on construction 
projects within the perimeter, company-sized patrols 
conducted sweeps north, east, and west of Con 
Thien while platoon-sized patrols covered the south. 



Those working within the perimeter endured over 
100 rounds of incoming enemy artillery and rockets, 
which dictated strict flak jacket discipline. "The 
Marines much preferred to take their chances on 
patrol," recalled Lieutenant Colonel Bendell, "than 
be sand bag fillers and bunker construction 'experts' 
interrupted by incoming barrages."" 

By mid- August, the enemy situation in the DMZ 
area was becoming critical. In a 16 August message 
to General Westmoreland, General Cushman stated 
that although he had increased his own troop 
strength in the area, he had received none of the 
forces considered as the minimum essential augmen- 
tation by the 26 January 1967 plan. The enemy 
threat in the DMZ had increased progressively to the 
degree that Marine units were fully occupied with 
holding back the Communists in the Con Thien-Gio 
Linh region. Allied forces along the trace (four bat- 
talions plus combat support and combat service sup- 
port, with the effective assistance of extensive and 
continuous artillery, air, and naval gunfire support) 
were unable to defend their front and at the same 
time construct, man, and operate the SPOS in their 
rear. General Cushman concluded by stating that he 
required more forces in northern Quang Tri if he 
were to meet the 1 November target date for the 



The construction of the barrier system, also called the strong point obstacle system, 
created severe logistics problems for III MAP. For example, the heavy timbers used in 
this partially completed bunker at Strong Point C-2 had to be acquired and then hauled 
to the site over dirt roads made almost impassable by the monsoon rains late in the year. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189849 




THE BARRIER- ANOTHER APPROACH 



93 



SPOS. His only alternative, barring the arrival of 
reinforcements if he was to continue the project, was 
to shift one Task Force Oregon brigade north to free 
elements of the 5 th Marines for deployment in 
Quang Tri.>^ 

General Westmoreland responded to CG III 
MAF's request by ordering another Army brigade to 
I Corps to permit the 5th Marines to deploy further 
north. He also informed General Cushman that he 
planned to send a second brigade into the area in 
October. As a result, the III MAF commander in- 
formed General Westmoreland that he would use 
nine Marine battalions; seven committed to 
searching, clearing, and screening in support of the 
construction effort, while the other two infantry bat- 
talions and an engineer battalion would construct 
the obstacles and man them as the work was com- 
pleted. All of these forces would be in the range of 
enemy artillery. Moreover, increased NVA use of 
proximity fuzes posed a greater threat to those troops 
who would have to do the work, expected to take six 
weeks. Because of this. General Cushman emphasiz- 
ed that the flow of equipment and materials would 
have to be timely. The general pointed out that the 
3 September artillery attack on Dong Ha also had 
reduced his ability to proceed with the project. ^^ 

On 7 September, General Westmoreland directed 
III MAF to assess the cost of installing the SPOS in 
terms of casualties resulting from enemy fire. At the 
same time, he requested that the Marines submit an 
alternate plan to be executed between then and 
November should a decision be made not to proceed 
with the Dye Marker plan. On 10 September, III 
MAF presented its analysis of the casualties that 
could be expected if it pursued the existing plan. 
The Marines based this analysis on actual casualties 
from previous operations in support of the SPOS, 
with an adjustment made for the increased enemy 
artillery capability. They estimated the system in- 
stallation time as 29 days. Total projected casualties 
were: 672 U.S. killed and 3,788 wounded; projected 
South Vietnamese casualties for the same period 
were 112 killed and 642 wounded.'* 

Three days after the submission of the casualty 
analysis. General Westmoreland approved III MAF's 
alternate plan. Operation Plan 12-67. The major 
change in the new plan was the cessation of obstacle 
construction until after completion of the strong 
points and base areas and stabilization of the tactical 
situation. Other changes outlined in the plan in- 



cluded relocation of Base Area C-3 nearer to Cam Lo 
and the addition of a fourth base area north of the 
Cua Viet POL facility. One other change, not involv- 
ing construction, was the provision for manning all 
four strong points with ARVN forces, freeing a 
Marine battalion for security of the new Quang Tri 
airfield. Operations in the western, or defile, area 
were to be conducted from battalion combat 
operating bases (COBs). This plan envisioned that 
the COBs would support the area between Camp 
Carroll and Khe Sanh. Subsequently, the Marines 
would establish bases in the vicinity of Lang Ru'ou 
and Lang Vei.'^ 

The onset of the seasonal monsoon further com- 
plicated construction efforts. The heavy rains in 
September, for example, turned Route 561 between 
Cam Lo and Con Thien into a quagmire impassable 
to any type of vehicle. While CH-53 helicopters, 
often guided by TPQ-10 radar, attempted to ferry 
sufficient supplies to Con Thien, the 11th Engineer 
Battalion received orders to make Route 561 useable; 
this became the battalion's top priority. The major 
problem facing the engineers was the location and 
movement of sufficient crushed rock to build a sub- 
base for the road. The nearest supply was near Camp 
Carroll, which required hauling the rock in dump 
trucks more than 15 miles. "When the project was 
completed and the first vehicles made it to Con 
Thien," commented Lieutenant Colonel Willard N. 
Christopher of the 11th Engineer Battalion, 
"General Hochmuth told me that he was elated to 
'get them off my back,' and congratulated the men 
in the battalion who had done the bulk of the 
work."^" 

By mid-October General Westmoreland was ex- 
pressing dissatisfaction with the rate of progress on 
the Dye Marker project. He realized that the heavy 
rains in late September and early October had re- 
quired a large effort to keep the roads open, and he 
also appreciated that there had been some delay 
because construction materials had not arrived on 
schedule, but, despite these recognizable problems, 
he believed that more progress should have been 
made. On 22 October, he told General Cushman 
that, as a result of his own observations and inspec- 
tions by his staff, he had concluded that quality con- 
trol of the project was inadequate, that the Dye 
Marker system had not received the priority consis- 
tent with its operational importance, and that the 
project required more command emphasis and bet- 



94 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIENTAMESE 



ter management.* He ordered General Cushman to 
take immediate steps to correct deficiencies and to 
institute a positive system of quality control over the 
entire Dye Marker project.^' 

General Cushman appointed the assistant III MAF 
commander, Major General Raymond L. Murray, a 
distinguished and highly decorated veteran of two 
wars, to head a permanent Dye Marker special staff. 
At the same time, III MAF informed all commanders 
concerned that the Dye Marker project had high na- 
tional interest and a priority second only to emergen- 
cy combat requirements. In addition. General 
i Cushman planned to move another regiment north 
Ito provide more troops for tactical requirements. 
General Cushman pointed out that although all con- 
struction was incomplete, all the A and C sites, ex- 
cept A-3, included in his 12-67 plan were manned 
and engaged in anti-infiltration operations. He 
assured the MACV commander that the task of com- 
pleting construction and improving the cases and 
strong points would be pursued as a matter of ut- 
most urgency. ^^ 

On 10 December, General Cushman reported 
that III MAF had made significant progress. All 
bunkers at sites A-4, C-2, and C-4 were complete. 
Engineers had completed the wire and mine 
emplacement at C-2, and had finished most of the 
other two sites. Construction had started on the 
combat operating base at Ca Lu and Marines were 
conducting tactical operations to clear the A-3 site. 
Vietnamese Army construction at sites A-1 and C-1 
did not meet the new 1 December target date, but 
completion was near. Engineers had prepared Route 
561 to handle a 60-ton capacity and opened it from 
Cam Lo to Con Thien, but delayed asphalting the 
road because of weather. The new Quang Tri airfield 
was completely operational, substantially easing the 
logistic burden in the area. 

By the end of the year, III MAF units finished all 
strong points and base areas, except A-3 and C-3. 



*Lieutenant Colonel Willard N. Christopher of the 11th 
Engineer Battalion remembered a Saigon staff officer suggesting 
the bunkers be painted white, as the ones at Long Binh supposed- 
ly were. This convinced Christopher that the quality control issue 
basically was a matter of "cosmetics." General Metzger, however, 
suspected that such "nit-picking" criticisms from the MACV staff 
stemmed, in part, from interservice rivalry. LtCol Willard N. 
Christopher, Comments on draft ms, 31jul81 (Vietnam Com- 
ment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.); MajGen Louis Metzger, 
Itr to CG, FMFPac, Subj: Debrief, dtd 22Jan68 (Archives, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



Both A-3 and C-3 were approximately 70 percent 
finished, as was the Ca Lu COB. The total Dye 
Marker effort and its associated security tasks had re- 
quired 757,520 mandays and 114,519 equipment 
hours by 31 December. Equipment lost to enemy ac- 
tion during the construction effort amounted to a 
monetary loss of $1,622,348." 

By the end of the year the Marine command's opi- 
nion of the barrier concept had not changed. One 
Marine officer stated, "With these bastards, you'd 
have to build the zone all the way to India and it 
would take the whole Marine Corps and half the Ar- 
my to guard it; even then they'd probably burrow 
under it." General Wallace M. Greene, Jr. the Com- 
; mandant, testifying before the Senate Subcommit- 
tee on Preparedness in August 1967, declared, 
"From the very beginning I have been opposed to 
this project."^* 

Each of the strong points in the barrier system con- 
tained bunkers designed to withstand enemy ar- 
tillery and rocket fire. These South Vietnamese 
soldiers are adding a thick layer of dirt to the top of 
this bunker at Strong Point C-2 in mid-October. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189856 








CHAPTER 8 

Con Thien and the Summer Battles Along the DMZ 

li^^y Con Thien? — Operation Buffalo 



Why Con Thien? 

The Marines along the DMZ began construction 
of the strong point obstacle system south of the 
border in the spring and fall of 1967 in compliance 
with orders from MACV and Washington. The 
system, called the "McNamara Line" by the Marines, 
proved to be a major burden to the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion. Security of the troops building the line, 
coupled with the demands on Marine units to fill 
sandbags, creosote bunker timbers, install wire, and 
other associated tasks, severely restricted the 
division's combat activities. 

While the construction of the obstacle system 
limited III MAF's flexibility, higher headquarters ex- 
pected its speedy completion to force southbound 
NVA regiments to move westward into the moun- 
tains, thereby complicating the enemy's logistical 
problems. The Marines' combined-arms fire power 
from strong points would then confront the an- 
ticipated enemy attacks. Smaller patrols and infiltra- 
tion groups would face the challenge of the extensive 
obstacle system. The Communists, however, chose 
to attack before the system became too strong. 

The enemy decided to concentrate on the Marine 
strong point at Con Thien, located 14 miles inland 
and two miles south of the DMZ. This outpost was 
crucial to Marine efforts in the area. It occupied what 
would be the northwest corner of the strong point 
obstacle system, which enclosed an area which 
became known as "Leatherneck Square." Con Thien 
also overlooked one of the principal enemy routes in- 
to South Vietnam. Capture of the outpost would 
open the way for a major enemy invasion of Quang 
Tri Province by 35,000 NVA troops massed north of 
the DMZ, a victory of immense propaganda value. 
Colonel Richard B. Smith, who commanded the 9th 
Marines, later described the outpost's importance: 

Con Thien was clearly visible from the 9th Marines 
Headquarters on the high ground at Dong Ha 10 miles 



away, so good line-of-sight communications were enjoyed. 
Although Con Thien was only 160 meters high, its tenants 
had dominant observation over the entire area. Visitors to 
Con Thien could look back at the vast logistics complex of 
Dong Ha and know instantly why the Marines had to hold 
the hill. If the enemy occupied it he would be looking 
down our throats.' 

The Communists made two offensive thrusts into | 
the Con Thien region during the second half of 
1967. Although reinforced by heavy artillery, 
rockets, and mortars north of the Ben Hai River in 
the DMZ, each thrust collapsed under a combina- 
tion of Marine ground and helicopter-borne 
maneuvers coupled with supporting artillery, naval 
gunfire, and attack aircraft. 

The first offensive aimed at Con Thien, the largest \ 
in terms of troops committed, occurred in July. For 
the first time the NVA employed extensive artillery j 
to support its infantry, but the Marine counterat- ! 
tack, Operation Buffalo, beat back the enemy, net- 
ting more than 1,200 NVA dead. 

The outpost at Con Thien, which this Marine patrol 
IS approaching, occupied a low hill, but one which 
provided excellent observation of the surrounding 
area as well as the key installations at Dong Ha. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3705 5 1 




95 



96 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The second attempt came in September. A heavy 
weapons attack of greater volume and duration sup- 
ported a multipronged infantry assault on Con 
Thien, but this endeavor, too, ended in failure for 
the Communists. 

In reviewing the enemy invasion attempts across 
the DMZ during 1967, analysts found the Com- 
munists used fewer troops as the year progressed, but 
greatly increased their attacks by fire. The enemy 
sanctuary in the northern half of the DMZ, pro- 
tected by U.S. policy, was always available for 
regrouping and employment of heavy artillery. This 
unique situation caused considerable frustration for 
the allied commanders. Even so, Communist plans 
for a significant victory in the DMZ area remained 
unfulfilled at the year's end, and construction of the 
allied strong point obstacle system continued as 
planned. 

Operation Buffalo 

Operation Buffalo began on 2 July utilizing 
Lieutenant Colonel Richard J. Schening's 1st Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines in and around Con Thien. Com- 
panies A and B operated north-northeast of the 
strong point near a former market place on Route 
561, while Company D, Headquarters and Service 
Company, and the battalion command group re- 
mained within the outpost perimeter. Company C 
was at Dong Ha at Colonel George E. Jerue's 9th 
Marines command post. Colonel Jerue described the 
origins of the operation: 



The TAOR assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment was so 
large that the regiment could not enjoy the advantage of 
patrolling any particular sector on a continuing basis. As a 
result, an area would be swept for a few days and then it 
would be another week or so before the area would be 
swept again. Consequently, it became evident that the 
NVA, realizing this limitation, would move back into an 
area as soon as a sweep was concluded. 

In an attempt to counter this NVA maneuver, it was 
decided to send two companies of 1/9 ("A" and "B" Cos.) 
into the area (1 ,200 yards east of Con Thien and north of 
the Trace) which had just been swept during the last few 
days in June. This is the reason the two companies were 
[there on 2 July]. ^ 



That morning. Captain Sterling K. Coates' Com- 
pany B, a company which gained a reputation for 
finding the enemy during earlier actions at Khe 
Sanh, walked into the heaviest combat of its Viet- 
nam assignment. It had moved a mile east of Con 
Thien the day before in company with Captain 



Albert C. Slater, Jr.'s Company A to conduct a 
sweep north of the cleared trace. At 0800 on the 
2nd, both units began moving north. Company A 
was on the left. Company B moved along Route 561, 
an old 8- to 10-foot-wide cart road bordered by 
waist-high hedgerows. The road led to trouble; two 
NVA battalions waited in prepared positions. 

Company B's movement started smoothly and by 
0900 the 2d Platoon had secured its first objective, a 
small crossroads 1,200 meters north of the trace. 
There was no contact. As the 3d Platoon and the 
command group moved up the trail, enemy sniper 
fire started. The 3d Platoon and Captain Coates' 
command group moved to the left to suppress the 
enemy's fire, but as they pushed north the NVA fire 
intensified, halting the platoon. Captain Coates 
directed his 2d Platoon to shift to the right in a 
second attempt to outflank the Communist posi- 
tion; at the same time he ordered the 1st Platoon 
forward to provide rear security for the company. 
The 2d Platoon tried to move, but enemy fire forced 
it back onto the road. The number of wounded and 
dead mounted as NVA fire hit the unit from the 
front and both flanks. To worsen matters, the enemy 
began pounding the Marines with artillery and mor- 



tars. 



Shortly after the sweep began. Company A trip- 
ped two Claymore mines and the need for casualty 
evacuation delayed its movement. Afterward, Cap- 
tain Slater moved his company eastward to help 
Company B, but could not link up because of heavy 
small arms fire. Soon the company had so many 
casualties that it was unable to fight and move 
simultaneously. 

Company B's position deteriorated. Enemy ar- 
tillery and mortar fire cut off the 3d Platoon and the 
command group from the 2d Platoon. The NVA 
troops then used flamethrowers to ignite the 
hedgerows on both sides of Captain Coates' unit, as 
well as massed artillery in close coordination with a 
ground attack. * Many of the Marines, forced into the 
open by the flamethrowers, died under the enemy 
fire. The Communist artillery and mortar fire shifted 
to the 2d Platoon as it attacked to help the 3d Pla- 
toon and the command group. This fire killed Cap- 
tain Coates, his radio operator, two platoon com- 
manders, and the artillery forward observer. The at- 
tached forward air controller. Captain Warren O. 
Keneipp, Jr., took command of the company, but 
he soon lost radio contact with the platoons. Only 
the company executive officer, at the rear of the 2d 



CON THIEN AND THE SUMMER BATTLES ALONG THE DMZ 



97 





y^ ;-*# 













3d MarDiv ComdC, July 1967 
Much of the terrain around Con Thien and the area south of the DMZ was well suited 
for armored vehicles. These infantrymen from Company K, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines 
have teamed up with M-48 tanks from the 3d Tank Battalion during Operation Buffalo. 



Platoon, managed to maintain radio contact with 
the battahon CP, but the heavy enemy fire kept him 
from influencing the situation.^ 

Down the road, the 1st Platoon also took heavy 
punishment as it tried to push its way up to the lead 
elements of the company. North Vietnamese troops 
swarmed against the platoon's flanks, but air support 
arrived and the platoon commander, Staff Sergeant 
Leon R. Burns, directed strikes against the enemy. 
Burns said later, "I asked for napalm as close as 50 
yards from us, some of it came in only 20 yards away. 
But I'm not complaining." The air strikes disrupted 
the enemy assault and the 1st Platoon reached what 
was left of the 2d Platoon. Burns quickly established 
a hasty defense and began treating the wounded.' 

The 1st Battalion command post at Con Thien 
heard the crackle of small-arms fire from the 0930 
action, followed by a radio report that Company B 
had encountered a dug-in NVA unit. The first 
assessment of enemy strength was a platoon, then a 
battalion, and ultimately a multibattalion force. 
When the firing began to increase. Lieutenant Col- 
onel "Spike" Schening alerted his Company C, at 
Dong Ha, to stand by to be helilifted into Company 
B's area. Since these reinforcements would not arrive 
for some time, Schening dispatched a rescue force 
composed of four tanks and a platoon from Com- 
pany D. The assistant S-3, Captain Henry J. M. 
Radcliffe, went with the small force to take com- 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 1924 17 
Moving through seven-foot-high "elephant grass" in 
the DMZ region could be nerve-wracking. Grass of- 
fered the superb concealment desired by an enemy 
lying in ambush. Close-range encounters were 
always a threat that required constant alertness for 
the slightest sign of the presence of NVA soldiers. 



98 



CON THIEN AND THE SUMMER BATTLES ALONG THE DMZ 



99 



mand of Company B if link-up could be made. First 
Lieutenant Gatlin J. Howell, the battalion in- 
telligence officer, went also because he was familiar 
with the area where the enemy engaged Company 
B.^ The remainder of the battalion command group 
remained at Con Thien. 

The small rescue force moved down the cleared 
trace from Con Thien to the junction of Route 561 
without incident, but as it turned north up the road 
it came under fire. A North Vietnamese unit, trying 
to encircle Company B, had moved south and was 
opposite Radcliffe's small force. Helicopter gunships 
and the fire from the four tanks dispersed the 
enemy. Company C began arriving by helicopter 
and Captain Radcliffe ordered the Company D pla- 
toon to secure the landing zone and evacuate 
casualties. As the lead elements of Company C came 
into the zone they met a heavy artillery barrage, 
which wounded 11 Marines. 

Despite enemy fire, the platoon of tanks and the 
lead unit of Company C continued to push north 
toward Company B. Haifa mile up the road, the ad- 
vancing Marines found the 1st Platoon. Captain 
Radcliffe told Burns that he was the acting comman- 
ding officer and asked where was the rest of the com- 
pany. Sergeant Burns replied, "Sir, this is the com- 
pany, or what's left of it."' 

After organizing the withdrawal of the 1st Pla- 
toon's wounded, Radcliffe and the relief force, ac- 
companied by Burns, continued to push forward to 
Company B's furthest point of advance to recover the 
company's casualties. The Marines set up a hasty 
defense, making maximum use of the tanks' 
firepower, and brought the dead and wounded into 
the perimeter. 

For Lieutenant Howell the scene had a particular 
impact. He had commanded Company B's 3d Pla- 
toon for more than eight months. Howell was seem- 
ingly everywhere as he searched for the wounded. 
Captain Radcliffe estimated that Howell and Cor- 
poral Charles A. Thompson of Company D were in- 
strumental in the evacuation of at least 25 Marines.^ 
The Marines then loaded their casualties on the 
tanks. Lacking space on the vehicles for the arms and 
equipment of the wounded, Radcliffe ordered them 
destroyed to prevent capture. The rescue force found 
it impossible to recover all the bodies immediately; 
some bodies remained along the road. 

The company came under heavy enemy artillery 
fire as it began to pull back. Two of the tanks hit 
mines which further slowed the withdrawal. When 



the company reached the landing zone it came 
under devastating artillery and mortar fire again, 
hitting many of the wounded who awaited evacua- 
tion. Litter bearers and corpsmen became casualties 
as well. 

Casualties increased in the landing zone, among 
them were the platoon commander and platoon 
sergeant from Company D who had been directing 
the defense of the zone. In the resulting confusion, 
someone passed the word to move the casualties back 
to Con Thien. A group of almost 50 started making 
their way back until Marines at Con Thien spotted 
them in the cleared trace. Lieutenant Colonel Schen- 
ing sent out a rescue party, headed by his executive 
officer. Major Darrell C. Danielson, in a truck, jeep 
and ambulance. Upon reaching the wounded 
Marines, Major Danielson saw that many were in a 
state of shock; some seemed in danger of bleeding to 
death. Fortunately, two helicopters landed in the 
area and the Marines loaded the more serious 
casualties on board. Enemy artillery fire delayed the 
evacuation of the remainder but, despite the fire, 
Major Danielson and his party managed to get 
everyone into the vehicles and back to Con Thien for 
treatment and further evacuation. ^ 

During the battle, friendly and enemy supporting 
arms engaged in a furious duel. In the first few hours 
of the engagement Marine aircraft dropped 90 tons 
of ordnance during 28 sorties. Artillery fired 453 
missions, while Navy destroyers fired 142 5-inch 
rounds into enemy positions. The NVA force fired 
1,065 artillery and mortar rounds during the day at 
Gio Linh and Con Thien; more than 700 rounds fell 
on Lieutenant Colonel Schening's 1st Battalion, 9th 
Marines alone. 

Captain Slater's Company A remained heavily 
engaged. When the necessity of carrying the increas- 
ing numbers of wounded brought the company to a 
halt, Slater had his 3d Platoon establish a hasty 
landing zone in the rear of the company. After the 
first flight of medevac helicopters departed the zone, 
the enemy hit the 3d Platoon with mortars and 
assaulted the position. Slater moved his 2d Platoon 
and company command group to reinforce the 3d 
Platoon.* The enemy advanced to within 50 meters 
of Company A's lines before small arms and artillery 



*In the confused fighting, the 1st Platoon of GDmpany A broke 
through the surrounding enemy and joined Captain Radcliffe's 
relief force. LtCol Albert C. Slater, Comments on draft ms, 
12May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



100 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



fire broke up their attack. Enemy pressure and the 
remaining casualties kept Company A in the defen- 
sive position until the NVA force withdrew later in 
the evening. 1° 

At 1500 Schening, at Con Thien, notified the 
regimental commander that all of his companies 
were hard pressed, that he had no more units to 
commit, and that the situation was critical. Colonel 
Jerue, commanding the 9th Marines, ordered Major 
Willard J. Woodring's 3d Battalion, 9th Marines to 
move by helicopter to Schening's assistance. Three 
companies and the command group of the 3d Bat- 
talion were in position north of the trace by 1800.* 
After landing, Major Woodring assumed operational 
control of Companies A and C of the 1st Battalion. 
The combined force made a twilight attack on the 
enemy's left flank, while elements of Company B 
and the platoon from Company D holding the 
landing zone pulled back to the Con Thien 
perimeter in expectation of an attack on the outpost. 
The increased pressure provided by the 3d Battalion 
caused the enemy to break contact. 

When the worn and exhausted survivors of the 
morning's encounter mustered for a head count, the 
Marines found the total casualty figure shocking. 
Staff Sergeant Burns, subsequently awarded the 
Navy Cross, stated that only 27 Company B Marines 
walked out of the action. Lieutenant Colonel Schen- 
ing's battalion lost 53 killed, 190 wounded, and 34 
missing. Not until 5 July did the battalion complete 
the recovery efforts that reduced the number of miss- 
ing to nine, but the number of dead increased to 
84.** The battalion established no accurate count of 
enemy killed." 

During the next three days, 3-5 July, enemy con- 
tact continued. At 0930 on the 3rd, an Air Force air 
observer reported more than 100 NVA soldiers ad- 



*Enemy artillery quickly zeroed in on 3/9's LZs. Helicopters 
could not land in the LZs during later resupply missions, which 
caused 3/9 to go entirely without water for a day and a half. Col 
John C. Studt, Comments on draft ms, 9Jul81 (Vietnam Com- 
ment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

**The XO of 3/9, Maj John C. Studt, supervised the recovery 
of Company B's dead, "... a grisly task after 3 days in the hot sun 
. . , .[Most] appeared to have been left right where they fell. They 
were in flank security positions too close to the road to have 
prevented an ambush or in the [sunken] road itself which . . . [of- 
fered] some cover . . . [Company B] clearly had walked into a [very 
well executed] ambush." Col John C. Studt, Comments on draft 
ms, 9Jul81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



vancing from positions north of Con Thien. Battery 
E, 3d Battalion, 12th Marines fired on them and kill- 
ed 75. To the east. Major Woodring called in con- 
tinuous air strikes for 12 hours to prepare for an at- 
tack the following day. The same day, 3 July, Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Peter A. Wickwire's BLT 1/3 from 
SLF Alpha joined the 9th Marines and tied in with 
Woodring's right flank. The regiment planned a 
drive north to recover missing bodies and push the 
NVA out of the Lang Son area, only 4,000 meters 
northeast of the Con Thien perimeter. 

The attack started early the morning of the 4th. 
The 3d Battalion encountered heavy resistance from 
concealed enemy positions southwest of the site of 
Company B's engagement on 2 July. A prolonged 
fight followed, involving tanks, artillery, and close 
air support. By 1830 when the final Marine assault 
ended, Woodring's 3d Battalion, 9th Marines had 
lost 15 dead and 33 wounded. BLT 1/3 had 11 
wounded during the same action. The same day Ma- 
jor Wendell O. Beard's BLT 2/3 from SLF Bravo 
joined the operation; the battalion landed by 
helicopter north of Cam Lo at LZ Canary and moved 
west and then northward on the western edge of the 
battle area toward Con Thien. 

During daylight on 5 July all units northeast of 
Con Thien came under enemy mortar and artillery 
fire, but there was relatively little ground contact 
while completing the grim task of recovering Com- 
pany B's dead. That afternoon an air observer spot- 
ted a large concentration of enemy troops 3,000 
meters northeast of Con Thien. He called in artillery 
and tactical air strikes and reported seeing 200 dead 
NVA soldiers. 

Following preparatory fires on the morning of 6 
July, all battalions continued moving north. Major 
Beard's BLT 2/3 ran into an enemy force supported 
by mortars less than 3 kilometers south of Con 
Thien. In the brief engagement that followed the 
battalion killed 35 Communist soldiers, while suffer- 
ing five killed and 25 wounded. 

Northeast of the outpost, Wickwire's and Wood- 
ring's battalions advanced under intermittent NVA 
artillery and mortar fire. Major Woodring decided to 
move a reinforced company 1,500 meters to the 
north-northwest to cover his left flank. He chose 
Captain Slater's attached Company A, 9th Marines, 
which now included the survivors of Company C, 
and a detachment from 3d Reconnaissance Bat- 
talion. Slater's company moved into position 
without opposition and established a strong combat 



Marine Corps Historical Collection 

Members of HSiS Company, 5 d Battalion, 9th Marines board a CH-46 helicopter as 
their battalion moved to assist hard-pressed elements of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 
then fighting a North Vietnamese force north of the Con Thien combat base on 2 July. 

Members of Company K, 5d Battalion, 9th Marines move behind one of their attached 
tanks from the 3d Tank Battalion as it skirts a large bomb crater during Operation Buf- 
falo. This tank-infantry combination, aided by artillery and air strikes, destroyed a 
North Vietnamese defensive position in heavy fighting near Con Thien on 4 July 1961 . 

3d MarDiv ComdC, July 1967 




101 



102 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



outpost. Slater's composite force dug concealed 
fighting positions and sent reconnaissance patrols 
north in an attempt to discover where the enemy 
crossed the Ben Hai River. '^ 

While Slater's move was unnoticed, the same was 
not true for the advance of the main elements of the 
two battalions. As they advanced, they encountered 
increasingly heavy artillery fire and by 1600 they 
could go no further. Wickwire's battalion had lost a 
tank and, because of the enemy fire, pulled back 
without recovering it. Captain Burrell H. Landes, 
Jr., commanding Company B, BLT 1/3, climbed a 
tree to spot for air strikes and artillery fire in front of 
his position. An aerial observer radioed that a large 
enemy force was approaching his position. When 
Landes asked how big the force was, the reply was, 
"I'd hate to tell you, I'd hate to tell you." The AO 
had spotted a 400-man force crossing the Ben Hai 
River in approach march formation; it was heading 
directly for the two battalions. After the sightings, 
both battalions, less Slater's company, came under 
heavy, accurate artillery fire. Between 500-600 
rounds hit the 3d Battalion's position and about 
1,000 landed on BLT 1/3. 

During the Communist bombardment, one of 
Slater's reconnaissance patrols also spotted the 
400-man NVA force and reported it moving toward 
the 3d Battalion. The enemy, still in column forma- 
tion, was unaware that it was heading directly into 
Captain Slater's concealed unit. The Marines opened 
fire at less than 150 meters distance. Captain Slater 
recalled: 

When the point of the enemy column was brought 
under fire, the NVA aletted their unit with a bugle call 
.... Their initial reaction was [one] of confusion and they 
scattered, some of them toward Marine lines. They quickly 
organized and probed at every flank of the 360 degree 
perimeter. Concealed prepared positions and fire 
discipline never allowed the NVA to determine what size 
of unit they were dealing with. When the enemy formed 
and attacked, heavy accurate artillery was walked to within 
75 meters of the perimeter. The few NVA that penetrated 
the perimeter were killed and all lines held." 

Heavy enemy probes, mortar fire, and small arms 
fire continued through the early evening. Some 
NVA soldiers crept close enough to hurl hand 
grenades into the Marine lines. One of the attached 
Company C fireteam leaders, Lance Corporal James 
L. Stuckey, responded by picking up the grenades 
and throwing them back toward their source. He was 
wounded when the third grenade exploded as it left 
his hand. He continued, however, to lead his 



fireteam for the rest of the night without medical 
assistance.'^ 

Despite heavy Marine artillery fire that effectively 
boxed in Slater's position, the NVA maintained 
pressure on the Marines until 2200. For the rest of 
the night, enemy small arms and mortar fire harass- 
ed Company A, but the NVA units were withdraw- 
ing. First light revealed 154 enemy bodies strewn 
around Company A's perimeter; the defenders had 
12 casualties. Among the wounded Marines was 
Lance Corporal Stuckey; only tattered flesh remain- 
ed where his hand had been.* 

While the attack on Company A took place, the 
rest of what intelligence officers later determined to 
have been the 90th NVA Regiment assaulted the 
two Marine battalions. To add to the effect of their 
preparatory fires, the attacking North Vietnamese 
threw fuzed blocks of TNT into the Marine positions 
to keep the Marines down as the assaulting troops 
moved in. The Marines countered with supporting 
arms; flare ships, attack aircraft, helicopter gun- 
ships, naval gunfire, and all available artillery con- 
centrated their fire on the attacking enemy. By 2130, 
the Marines had repelled the assault and the Com- 
munist forces began withdrawing to the north. 

At 0520 the next morning, Major Woodring 
ordered Captain Slater to pull back into the bat- 
talion perimeter. The decision was most opportune; 
immediately after Company A cleared the night 
position, a 30-minute NVA artillery concentration 
landed within its old lines.** Company A returned 
to the battalion's perimeter without incident. Both 
battalions spent the rest of the 7th trying to deter- 
mine the extent of the damage inflicted on the 90th 
NVA Regiment. By 8 July the Marines raised the 
NVA casualty count to more than 800. Counting 
enemy bodies proved to be a most difficult task; the 
grisly carnage was beyond description. Hundreds of 
bodies covered the scarred battleground, some half 
buried, others in pieces, all surrounded by a carpet 
of battered equipment and ammunition. Counting 
enemy canteens was one method used to try to 



*Corporal Stuckey received the Navy Cross for his actions on 6 
July 1967. 

**ColonelJohn C. Studt, the XO of 3/9 in July 1967, said this 
incident was typical of the battalion commander. "Major Wood- 
ring, a former drill instructor, a woodsman and a deerhunter, 
possessed that rare instinct which enabled him to frequently an- 
ticipate enemy actions." Col John C. Studt, Comments on draft 
ms, 9Jul81, (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



CON THIEN AND THE SUMMER BATTLES ALONG THE DMZ 



103 



establish realistic figures. The vast area which the 
bodies covered further complicated the morbid 
undertaking. As late as the afternoon of the 8th, 
Captain Gerald F. Reczek's Company C, BLT 1/3 
found about 200 enemy bodies more than 600 
meters east of Route 561. 

The scattering of bodies to the north occurred 
when air and artillery hit groups of North Viet- 
namese moving toward or away from the main battle 
area. The lateral scattering from the 3d Battalion's 
position eastward across the front of BLT 1/3 was the 
result of the NVA attempt to outflank Major 
Woodring's unit without realizing that the BLT was 
on line. Trying to move further east, they lost even 
more men to the guns of Wickwire's Marines." The 
Marines found it impossible to compute an accurate 
total of Communist losses to supporting arms 
because of the inability of allied forces to continue 
the count on the north side of the Ben Hai River. 

The last significant engagements of Operation 
Buffalo took place on 8 July, southwest of Con 
Thien. After BLT 2/3 closed on Con Thien during 
its northward sweep, it had turned west, and then 
headed south toward the Cam Lo River. Moving 
south, at 1030 Captain James P. Sheehan's Company 
G discovered a bunker complex. When small arms 
fire and grenades interrupted further investigation, 
Sheehan wisely backed off and called in air and ar- 
tillery. At 1300, Company G moved in, but some 
NVA soldiers continued to fight. Later that after- 
noon, after clearing the complex, Company G 
reported 39 dead Communists, 2 Marines killed, and 
29 wounded, including the company commander. 

At 1430 while Company G cleared the bunkers, a 
Company F squad patrol, located some 1,200 meters 
southwest of Company G, engaged another enemy 
force. When the Communists counterattacked, the 
company commander. First Lieutenant Richard D. 
Koehler, Jr., sent in the rest of his Marines. When 
82mm mortar rounds began falling, Koehler knew 
he was in trouble and called in artillery and air 
strikes. The concentration of supporting arms crack- 
ed the enemy position, and when Company F moved 
in, it counted 118 enemy bodies. The Marines 
estimated the Communist unit to have numbered 
between 200 and 250. Marine losses totaled 14 killed 
and 43 wounded. Apparently the NVA had had 
enough; for the next five days BLT 2/3 encountered 
only mines and harassing fires. 

One ominous development which accompanied 
the Buffalo fighting was the accurate employment of 



large-caliber, long-range NVA artillery. On 7 July, 
enemy artillery scored a direct hit on the command 
bunker of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at Con 
Thien, killing 11, including First Lieutenant Gatlin 
J. Howell, the intelligence officer who had gone to 
the aid of Company B, 9th Marines on 2 July. 
Eighteen others sustained wounds; one was the bat- 
talion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Schening.* 
The cause of the damage was a 152mm howitzer 
round, which penetrated five feet of sand bags, loose 
dirt, and 12xl2-inch timbers. 

The same day, at Dong Ha, a delay-fuzed 130mm 
round landed at the base of the north wall of the 9th 
Marines' command post, exploding six feet below 
the bunker floor. Luckily, there were no injuries. 
The NVA also scored a direct hit on the Dong Ha 
chapel during Catholic services, killing the 
chaplain's assistant. Storage areas, helicopter 
maintenance areas, and medical facilities were 
among the targets of the long-range weapons. The 
frequeiicy and accuracy of the enemy fire caused Col- 




Marine Corps Historical Collection 
The heat during the summer battles south of the 
DMZ made water a precious commodity . Following 
a helicopter resupply mission, these two Marines use 
a Vietnamese technique to carry a five-gallon can of 
water to their squad during Operation Buffalo. 



*Lieutenant Colonel Schening also suffered wounds at Cape 
Gloucester and Peleliu in World War II, as well as in Korea. He 
thus survived wounds in three wars. 



104 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



onel Jerue to move his command post to a location 
northeast of Cam Lo. There, relative quiet prevailed 
for the remainder of the operation.* 

Another indication of the Communist buildup 
along the DMZ and around Con Thien during this 
period was the increased employment of surface-to- 
air missiles (SAMs). While an A-4 aircraft was attack- 
ing the NVA in front of BLT 1/3 on 6 July, the 
enemy launched eight SAMs from sites north of the 
Ben Hai River. One hit Major Ralph E. Brubaker's 
VMA-311 jet, causing the aircraft to crash in enemy 
territory. Brubaker, only slightly wounded, remain- 
ed in enemy territory until picked up the next morn- 
ing by an Air Force rescue helicopter. 

Operation Buffalo closed on 14 July 1967. The 
Marines reported enemy losses as 1,290 dead and 
two captured. Marine losses, in contrast, totaled 159 
killed and 345 wounded. The Marines found the 
enemy's large-scale July offensive against Con Thien 
a short one, but considerably more vicious than most 



*Colonel Joseph J. Kelly recalled in 1981 that the requirement 
to find room for a forward division headquarters to be reopened at 
Dong Ha also influenced this move. In addition, regimental staff 
officers knew the old French barracks housing the regimental 
headquarters were prominent features on maps used by the North 
Vietnamese. Col Joseph J. Kelly, Comments on draft ms, 
29May81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



of the Communist operations conducted in I Corps. 
The most savage aspect was the heavy employment 
of supporting arms by both sides. Of the known 
enemy killed, more than 500 came from air, ar- 
tillery, and naval gunfire. In addition, supporting 
arms destroyed 164 enemy bunkers and 15 artillery 
and rocket positions, and caused 46 secondary explo- 
sions. To accomplish this. Marine aviation used 
1,066 tons of ordnance. Marine and Army artillery 
consumed more than 40,000 rounds, and ships of 
the U.S. Seventh Fleet fired 1,500 rounds from their 
5- and 8-inch naval guns. On the other hand, enemy 
artillery accounted for half of the Marine casualties 
during the operation and posed a constant threat to 
the Marine logistical support installations. 

The July fighting around Con Thien reaffirmed 
the Marines' faith in supporting arms. In spite of the 
appearance of SAMs and the presence of excellent, 
long-range Communist artillery, the Marines could 
prove that the latest enemy offensive had failed. Con 
Thien had held and at least one firstline enemy regi- 
ment was in shambles. The Buffalo victory did not 
breed overconfidence, but the body-strewn 
wasteland along the DMZ provided mute evidence 
of the effectiveness of III MAF's defenses. The sum- 
mer was far from over; they would be challenged 



agam. 

Con Thien proved that Mannes, although offense -minded, also had to know how to 
build sturdy bunkers to fortify their defensive positions. This Marine inspects a bunker 
constructed of dirt-filled ammunition boxes which collapsed after being hit by artillery. 

Marine Corps Historical Collection 




PART IV 
FALL COMBAT, NORTH AND SOUTH 



CHAPTER 9 

Continuing Operations Against the 2d NVA Division 

Raids and Rockets in Quang Nam — Operation Cochise 
Operation Swift — A Busy Calm Before the Storm 



Raids and Rockets in Quang Nam 

During June allied units intensified operations 
against elements of the 2d NVA Division and Viet 
Cong units in the southern three provinces of I 
Corps. The enemy continued to pump replacements 
into the region in a determined effort to regain con- 
trol of the area, particularly the Que Son Basin. The 
allied forces, in greater numbers and with increased 
firepower, thwarted each Communist move as it 
developed. As a result of continuing enemy defeats, 
the pacification program began to show positive 
results as demonstrated by its expansion into virgin 
territory. 

As July began, the 1st and 7 th Marines, both from 
the 1st Marine Division, which Major General Donn 
J. Robertson still commanded, were operating in the 
densely populated area around Da Nang. Two bat- 
talions of the 5th Marines continued operations 



against elements of the 2d NVA Division in the Que 
Son Basin, while the other battalion of the 5th 
Marines, the 2d, provided security for the An Hoa 
industrial complex and Nong Son coal mine, 
southwest of Da Nang. 

Further south, the nine U.S. Army battalions of 
Task Force Oregon, now commanded by Major 
General Richard T. Knowles, USA, continued their 
operations in southern I CTZ. Four of the Army bat- 
talions operated in and around Chu Lai, while the 
remainder of the force expanded allied control over 
the populated coastal plain of Quang Ngai Province. 
The Korean Marine Brigade of three battalions re- 
mained in its TAOR south of Chu Lai. 

The combined efforts of these units forced NVA 
and VC main force units to pull out of the populated 
regions and move back into the mountains. Despite 
this setback, the enemy tenaciously maintained a 



Two battalions of the 3 th Marines, the 1st and 5d, remained in the Que Son Basin after 
the arrival at Chu Lai of Army units of Task Force Oregon. Marines of the 5d Battalion 
maneuver under fire on 21 July while in contact with units of the 2d NVA Division. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370216 




107 



108 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



presence in the three provinces by cutting lines of 
communication and attacking allied installations by 
fire. The Communists targeted Revolutionary 
Development teams and isolated units for their main 
efforts. These tactics enabled the enemy to limit 
force commitments and still gain moral and 
propaganda victories while, at the same time, 
reconstituting regular units. Communist actions in 
Quang Nam Province during July 1967 provide an 
excellent example of this modus operandi. 

The Communists chose the relatively isolated 
Marine outpost at Nong Son, the site of the only 
producing coal mine in South Vietnam, as their first 
target. First Lieutenant James B. Scuras' Company F, 
5th Marines provided security for the mine. The 
company manned two positions near the mine itself 
and a third, with an attached 81mm mortar section 
and two 4. 2 -inch mortars, on top of the hill 
overlooking the mine. The enemy chose the mortar 
position as his objective. 

At 2327 on 3 July, a Marine listening post outside 
the upper position reported, "I have movement to 
my front," and within seconds, "They're all around 
me," and then, "We've been overrun."* Next, the 
main position came under mortar attack. One of the 
first rounds blew up the 4.2-inch mortar ammuni- 
tion dump. Immediately following their mortar bar- 
rage, enemy sappers moved into the position, throw- 
ing grenades and satchel charges into the Marine 
bunkers. Simultaneously, other enemy units made a 
mortar attack on the Marine artillery positions at An 
Hoa to neutralize their support of the Nong Son out- 
post. The Marines of Captain John Pipta's Battery E, 
2d Battalion, 11th Marines, however, immediately 
began firing in support of the Company F Marines. 

By the time Pipta's first artillery barrage landed 
around the edge of the position, the enemy assault 
had already faltered. The attackers had not caught 
all of the Marines in their bunkers. Private First Class 
Melvin E. Newlin, an 18-year-old machine gunner 
from Wellsville, Ohio, and four other Marines had 
been manning a perimeter position when the attack 
started. Although the initial attack killed his four 
campanions and wounded him, Newlin kept his 
machine gun in action. He fought off two additional 
attempts to overrun his position before a grenade 
wounded him again and knocked him unconscious. 

With Newlin temporarily silenced, the Viet Cong 
moved into the center of the outpost and destroyed 
both 4.2-inch mortars. As the enemy prepared to at- 
tack the Marines on the other side of the perimeter. 



Newlin regained conciousness, remanned his 
machine gun, and opened fire. His fire caused the 
VC to break off their assault of the remaining Marine 
bunkers and once again they attacked him. Newlin 
withstood two additional enemy attempts to silence 
his gun before he died.* 

When the attack started. Lieutenant Scuras took 
two squads and moved to relieve the 1st Platoon in 
the upper outpost. Arriving at the top of the hill at 
about midnight, the reinforcements, with the 
assistance of the surviving defenders, drove the 
enemy out of the position. As the VC withdrew from 
the hill, the Marines remanned their 81mm mortars 
and brought them to bear on the retreating force. In 
addition, they called in artillery on suspected escape 
routes. 

At approximately 0100, the battalion's Company 
E arrived at Nong Son and assumed responsibility for 
the two lower positions. The remaining elements of 
Company F then moved to the top of the hill to 
reconsolidate their position and evacuate the 
casualties. The attack had killed 13 Marines and 
wounded 43. 

For the Viet Cong, the attack on the position was 
expensive. They did not overrun the entire outpost 
as they hoped, and the loss of 44 of their members 
made the effort very costly, but they succeeded in 
destroying the two heavy mortars in the position. ^ 

The Communists executed two other attacks to in- 
fluence the people in Quang Nam Province. Both 
mutually supporting actions took place on the night 
of 14 July. The first attack occurred in the town of 
Hoi An at 2300 when an enemy force hit the U.S. 
advisors' compound with mortar fire. At the same 
time, two platoons of VC, dressed in ARVN 
uniforms, attacked the nearby provincial jail. The 
enemy force broke into the jail and released 1,196 
military and political prisoners. During the confused 
fighting that followed, the ARVN recaptured 206 
prisoners and killed 30, but 960 escaped. Only 5 of 
the Viet Cong died in the attack; ARVN units 
wounded another 29. The return of almost 1,000 
cadre to the VC ranks increased their capacity to op- 
pose the September elections, but the psychological 
blow caused by the untimely "liberation" had an 
equally severe impact. 

The Communists chose their other target equally 
well: the Da Nang Airbase, center of American 



*For his actions Private First Class Newlin received a 
posthumous Medal of Honor. (See Appendix D for his citation.) 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



109 



presence in the northern provinces. The home of 
Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), Marine, and U.S. Air 
Force tactical squadrons, the Da Nang Airbase stood 
as an undisputed symbol of U.S. and GVN strength. 
The Communists were aware that an attack on Da 
Nang would be more difficult than their earlier at- 
tempts to strike the base. Since the first rocket attack 
on the base in February, the Marines had intensified 
their defensive efforts, instituting as many as 800 
daily patrols and ambushes. Allied aircraft con- 
ducted overflights of the rocket belt itself to detect 
any movement in the area, and artillery fired more 
than 2,000 rounds every 24 hours to interdict likely 
avenues of approach to the rocket belt. 

Despite these impressive Marine countermeasures, 
the Communists were confident they could attack 
the base successfully. The reason was their new 
122mm rocket, a weapon which they had not used 
south of the DMZ. This rocket was a high trajectory 
weapon, capable of being emplaced virtually 
anywhere. A trained crew could prepare a 122mm 
rocket for firing in less than 30 minutes. Its range of 
12,000 meters, 2,000 meters greater than that of the 
l40mm rocket, allowed emplacement beyond what 
the Marines had established as the rocket belt. 

During the night of 14 July, enemy rocket units 
moved out of "Happy Valley," southwest of Da 
Nang, and established six firing positions, divided 
into two clusters of three positions each. Each firing 
position contained six individual launcher sites. 
Shortly after midnight the enemy fired their rockets 
at the airfield; within five minutes 50 projectiles hit 
the base. 

Marines responded swiftly to the first volley. 
Almost instantly, a number of friendly units 
reported the firing and three minutes after the 
enemy launched the rockets an Air Force plane at- 
tacked one of the sites. At the same time, artillery 
units plotted the launch site locations and commenc- 
ed firing at both the sites and the probable escape 
routes. This rapid reply by supporting arms was ex- 
emplary, but it was only a countermeasure and not a 
solution to the problem of defending the Da Nang 
complex against the new, long-range threat. In the 
attack, the rockets destroyed 10 aircraft, 13 barracks, 
and a bomb dump, and damaged 40 more aircraft. 
Eight Americans died and another 176 suffered 
wounds. 

The Communists had not only succeeded in 
destroying a large quantity of material, but the 
resulting fires provided visible evidence of a suc- 



cessful attack to the 300,000 people living around 
Da Nang. That the VC carried out the attack suc- 
cessfully, while the Marines and ARVN forces had 
been actively trying to prevent it, vastly increased its 
propaganda value. 

The 14 July attack forced immediate adjustments 
of III MAF's defense of the airfield. Ill MAF extend- 
ed the rocket belt to include the space between two 
radii of 12,000 and 8,000 meters, the maximum 
ranges from which the VC could launch both 
I40mm and 122mm rockets. The new belt also in- 
cluded the most likely areas of penetration by enemy 
launching units. The Marines established a central- 
ized control system for all aspects of the counter- 
rocket effort and increased their patrols and 
overflights. They also instituted a waterway control 
plan which included an 1800-0600 movement 
curfew on all streams within the belt. Deep recon- 
naissance patrols along the enemy's approach routes 
outside the belt increased by 40 percent. In addi- 
tion, the 1st Marine Division developed an elaborate 
psychological operations (PsyOps) campaign to 
counter the threat, including the offer of 10,000- 
piastre rewards for information on rockets, location 
of caches, and routes used to bring rockets into the 
Da Nang area. On a day-to-day basis, the division 
allocated more than 90 percent of its PsyOps assets to 
this program. 5 

For the Marines operating in the rocket belt the 
war was particularly frustrating. Each patrol con- 
tended with the probability of encountering mines 
and booby traps. So called secure areas were never 
entirely free from these threats. Over 50 percent of 
the division's casualties during the first half of 1967 
resulted from explosive devices encountered while 
patrolling in these dangerous though densely 
populated areas. There was no easy solution, and in 
spite of the Marines' efforts rocket attacks continued. 

Operation Cochise 

While the Communist rocket gunners were an- 
noying the Da Nang TAOR, intelligence agencies 
reported that the SdNVA Regiment had moved into 
northern Quang Tin Province during late July. In- 
telligence also indicated the headquarters of the 1st 
VC Regtmentzho had moved from Quang Ngai Pro- 
vince to a new location east of Hiep Due in the Que 
Son Basin. Reacting to these reports, on 9 August 
General Robertson reactivated Task Force X-Ray, 
again under the command of his assistant division 



110 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



commander, Brigadier General Foster C. LaHue. 
General LaHue received orders to strike the enemy 
wherever possible within the Que Son Basin and sur- 
rounding hills, with emphasis on the Hiep Due area 
which intelligence officers believed contained the 2d 
NVA Division's headquarters and logistic base. For 
this operation, code named Cochise, General 
LaHue's Task Force X-Ray controlled the 1st and 3d 
Battalions of Colonel Stanley Davis' 5th Marines and 
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred I. Thomas' BLT 1/3 from 
SLF Alpha. 

General LaHue's concept of operations for Cochise 
consisted of three phases. The first phase involved 
the insertion of the two 5th Marines battalions south 
of Nui Loc Son outpost between the tactical 
elements of the 2d NVA Division and its suspected 
logistic base. The two battalions were to drive east 
toward friendly blocking positions and eliminate 
Communist tactical forces in the vicinity of the 
logistic installations. Phase II called for a helilift of 
two battalions into the suspected enemy base area, 
and the third phase a two- battalion sweep from the 
Hiep Due region northeast to Que Son. 

South of the Cochise area of operation the 2d 
ARVN Division was about to conduct companion 
operation Lien Ket 112; its concept resembled 
Cochise. Two ranger battalions were to be helilifted 
into landing zones southeast of Hiep Due and sweep 
eastward, while three battalions of the 6th ARVN 
Regiment occupied blocking positions west of Tarn 
Ky. Both operations began early on the morning of 
11 August. 

The ARVN rangers made the first significant con- 
tact. On the morning of the 12th, three battalions of 
the 21si NVA Regiment attacked the rangers. Heavy 
fighting continued throughout the day and by 1700 
the rangers reported heavy casualties. Dangerously 
low on ammunition, with darkness approaching, 
and with no sign of a letup on the part of the enemy, 
the rangers requested an emergency resupply. At 
1730, a CH-46 from HMM-165, accompanied by 
two UH-lE gunships from VMO-6 arrived overhead 
with the badly needed ammunition. The gunships 
scouted the intended landing zone and reported that 
the CH-46 could not land in the contested zone. The 
pilot. Captain Jack H. McCracken, well aware of 
what would happen to the rangers without ammuni- 
tion decided to try to deliver his cargo anyway. He 
ordered his crew chief. Corporal James E. Bauer, to 
stack the ammunition on the rear ramp. Captain Mc- 
Cracken nosed over his helicopter and raced for the 



landing zone. McCracken then hovered 30 feet over 
the zone, and Corporal Bauer lowered the ramp and 
most of the ammunition dropped into the zone. 
While repeated enemy small arms hits shook the 
helicopter. Corporal Bauer kicked out the rest of the 
ammunition. As the last box dropped, enemy 
bullets severely damaged the helicopter, but Mc- 
Cracken's resupply permitted the rangers to continue 
the battle-*. At 2300, the NVA units finally pulled 
back, leaving 197 bodies behind. The ranger losses 
also had been heavy, 81 killed and 153 wounded. 

During the next three days, there were numerous 
encounters with small VC elements. On the night of 
16 August, enemy units twice attempted to infiltrate 
BLT 1/3's night positions, but turned back in the 
face of small arms and artillery fire, leaving 36 
bodies behind. The next morning, Lieutenant Col- 
Joseph A. Nelson, commanding officer of 



onei 



VMO-6, in a UH-lE gunship, was escorting resupply 
helicopters when he sighted more than 50 VC in 
the open. The VMO-6 commander expended all of 
his ordnance in the process of fixing the enemy 
group in place. He then directed a fixed-wing mis- 
sion against the target. Meanwhile, a company of 
Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Webster's 3d Bat- 
talion, 5th Marines moved into assault positions 
under cover of the air strike. After Webster's attack, 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370348 
Col Stanley Davis, commanding the 5th Marines, 
and the regimental operations officer, Maj Richard J. 
Alger (right), confer in the field on 16 August with 
LtCol Charles B. Webster of the 3d Battalion, 5th 
Marines during Cochise in the key Que Son Basin. 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



111 



a sweep of the area located 40 VC bodies. Total 
Marine casualties totaled only three wounded. 

On the afternoon of the 18th, the first phase of 
Operation Cochise ended and Task Force X-Ray 
withdrew Webster's battalion. The next morning 
helicopters lifted the remaining two battalions into 
the Hiep Due area for Phase II. Though the Marines 
anticipated a sizable enemy force in this region, 
there was little contact and the operation turned into 
a bush-beating effort. The final phase of Cochise 
began on the 25th and continued until 28 August. 
Enemy contact during the last three days consisted of 
sniper fire and booby traps. 

Final casualty results for Cochise included 156 
enemy killed and 13 captured. Marine casualties 
were light in comparison, 10 killed and 93 wounded. 
Vietnamese Operation Lien Kit 112 accounted for 
206 NVA killed, 12 prisoners, and 42 weapons seiz- 
ed. ARVN losses were more severe than Marine 
casualties during Cochise, 83 killed, 174 wounded, 
and 3 missing. 

Although these operations forced a major portion 
of the 2d NVA Division to withdraw. III MAF had 
no illusions of the enemy abandoning the densely 
populated, rice-bearing lands of the Que Son Basin. 
Cochise and Lien Ket 112 had been tactical victories, 
but the 2d NVA Division had suffered only a 
reverse, not a defeat. 

Operation Swift 

As September neared, the Communists faced an 
increasing loss of control of the population in the 
coastal region south of Da Nang. The 2d NVA Divi- 
sion again moved into the Que Son Basin. 

The Marines anticipated that the Communists 
would try to increase their strength in this area dur- 
ing this period, since it corresponded with the time 
of the South Vietnamese national elections, as well 
as preparations for the fall rice harvest. At the begin- 
ning of September, intelligence sources reported 
that elements of all three regiments of the NVA divi- 
sion had moved into the area. There were increasing 
indications that these enemy units planned offensive 
actions to disrupt the elections in Que Son District. 
The Marines responded with numerous small unit 
operations to screen the district polling places. 
Operation Swift was the outgrowth of one of the 
election day screening sweeps near Dong Son (1) 
village, eight miles to the southwest of Thang Binh 
along Route 534. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370355 
The second phase of Operation Cochise brought lit- 
tle enemy contact since the elements of the 2d NVA 
Division had withdrawn from the Que Son Basin. 
This Marine moves down a narrow trail through 
thick vegetation as Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th 
Marines searches for the elusive North Vietnamese. 

The operation began when the enemy attacked 
Captain Robert F. Morgan's Company D, 5th 
Marines just before dawn on 4 September. The ac- 
tion unfolded slowly. At 0430, the enemy force 
struck the Marine company with small arms fire and 
mortar rounds from positions 100 meters northwest 
and west of the company perimeter. The Marines 
returned fire and recalled the company outposts. 
Help arrived in the form of an armed UH-lE, but 
when the Marines marked their position with a 
strobe light, the NVA soldiers saw it too. As soon as 
the light began flashing, the enemy hit the position 
with even more accurate small arms and mortar fire. 

A short time later. Marines discovered enemy in- 
filtrators inside the western segment of the company 
perimeter. Captain Morgan organized a force to 
drive the NVA out and by 0620 reestablished the 
perimeter. As it reorganized, more NVA automatic 
weapons hit Company D, killing Captain Morgan. 
The executive officer. First Lieutenant William P. 
Vacca, called for air strikes, some within 50 meters of 



112 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 






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CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



113 



the company lines. The enemy pulled back. As the 
fire let up, Vacca completed the perimeter 
reorganization and requested helicopter evacuation 
for his casualties. At the same time, he reported that 
he faced at least an enemy company and needed 
help. His battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel 
Peter L. Hilgartner, responded by ordering Captain 
Thomas D. Reese, Jr.'s Company B, then 4,000 
meters to the west and near the battalion CP on Hill 
31, to move overland to Vacca's position. 

Company B arrived in the vicinity of the battle by 
0820, and within the hour it came under fire from 
another enemy force, apparently a company, entren- 
ched in the town of Dong Son (1). Captain Reese 
asked for a tear gas drop on the dug-in NVA, and 
"Hueys" from VMO-2 obliged by dropping 400 
pounds of the agent on the enemy lines. The Com- 
munists broke and ran north toward the Ly Ly River. 
Company B attacked, killing 26 of the enemy, and 
secured the eastern end of Dong Son (1). While 
Company B fought in the east end of town, 
HMM-363 helicopters arrived over the battle area to 
pick up Company D's casualties. The NVA force 
greeted the aircraft with heavy fire and decoy smoke 
signals. They hit two UH-34s and shot one down 
over Company D. They also shot down one of 
VMO-2's UH-lEs, piloted by Major David L. Ross, 
who managed to land in the Company D perimeter. 
Ross changed his "Deadlock" radio call sign to 
"Deadlock on the deck" and continued to help direct 
air strikes on the enemy. He also provided ammuni- 
tion and machine guns from his aircraft to help in 
the defense of the perimeter.' 

At 0925, Lieutenant Colonel Webster's 3d Bat- 
talion, 5th Marines, based at the regimental com- 
mand post seven miles east of Que Son, received or- 
ders to prepare two companies for a helilift to the 
Dong Son area for attachment to Hilgartner's bat- 
talion. By 1245 both of the 3d Battalion companies, 
K and M, and Hilgartner's 1st Battalion command 
group had landed four kilometers east-northeast of 
Dong Son (1) and were preparing to move toward 
Companies B and D. Meanwhile, Company B found 
another enemy pocket in the west end of Dong Son 
(1). After an air strike, the company moved in and 
cleared the west end; they killed nine more Com- 
munists in this action. Fighting in the town 
diminished as Companies B and D consolidated 
their positions in the western edge of the village; 
Hilgartner's force was less fortunate. 

At 1430, Hilgartner's Companies K and M were 



advancing in column. Company K, accompanied by 
Lieutenant Colonel Hilgartner's command group, 
led the movement. "We were alerted to the impen- 
ding conflict," said Hilgartner, "when one of our 
scouts brought in a Chinese-made, magazine-fed, 
light machine gun which was found teetering back 
and forth on a large rock." Hilgartner radioed this 
information to Major Richard J. Alger, the regimen- 
tal operations officer. Alger replied that he had just 
received an intelligence report that a large enemy 
force was in the area.^ 

These two events gave Hilgartner time to begin to 
change his tactical formation from a column to two 
companies on line. He ordered Company M to move 
up on Company K's right. As Company M advanc- 
ed, both companies came under intense fire from a 
large NVA force in what the Marines later found to 
be an L-shaped, entrenched position.' 

Company M's 1st Platoon was crossing a rice pad- 
dy about 1430 when it first came under heavy fire 
from an estimated enemy company. First Lieutenant 
John D. Murray, commanding Company M, sent his 
2d Platoon to assist the 1st Platoon. While crossing a 
small knoll near the village of Chau Lam (1), the 2d 
Platoon ran head-on into still another entrenched 
NVA company. The 1st Platoon's commander. Se- 
cond Lieutenant Edward L. Blecksmith, ordered his 
Marines to pull back to the top of the knoll. While 
the 2d Platoon fought the by now attacking North 
Vietnamese, Lieutenant Murray ordered the re- 
mainder of the company to move onto the knoll with 
the 1st Platoon and set up a perimeter. The enemy 
quickly encircled Company M and pounded it with 
more than 200 mortar rounds, as well as extremely 
heavy automatic weapons fire. Murray requested a 
tear gas drop on the enemy positions to help the 2d 
Platoon disengage. While the gas did slow up the 
Communist assaults, it did not help the many 
Marines who had lost or discarded their gas masks 
during the action. 

As the gas lifted, the NVA renewed their attack 
and, on at least one occasion, succeeded in 
penetrating the 2d Platoon's lines. Sergeant 
Lawrence D. Peters, a squad leader, stood up to 
point out NVA positions until hit in the leg. Despite 
his wound, he led his men until they drove the 
enemy from the position. Sergeant Peters died later 
that evening from a fragment wound.* 



*Sergeant Peters received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his 
actions. See Appendix D for the citation. 



114 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The enemy attacks separated Hilgartner's two 
companies; each had to fight independently. Cap- 
tain Joseph R. Tenny, commanding Company K, 
fought and maneuvered his company against the 
enemy in a firefight that lasted until nightfall. Final- 
ly, he had to back off and set up night positions with 
Hilgartner's command group. 

As darkness fell over the Que Son Valley, the 
Marines called for air strikes. Captain Robert J. Fitz- 
simmons and his aerial observer, First Lieutenant 
Robert H. Whitlow, arrived over the battlefield in a 
Cessna O-l Bird Dog to control the strike.* Napalm 
and 500-pound bombs exploded as close as 50 
meters to Company M's lines. To the west. Marine 
artillery from Que Son fired in support of Com- 
panies B and D. Early in the evening the fighting 
reached a crescendo when the North Vietnamese 
opened up against the attacking planes with heavy 
machine guns. Marine A-6A Intruders, directed by 
Whitlow, attacked the main cluster of enemy an- 
tiaircraft positions on Hill 63. After silencing these 
guns, the A-6As struck at Communist mortars 
within 60 meters of Company K. By 2000 the one- 
sided air-ground duel was over. Although scattered 
action continued on the ground, the destruction of 
the NVA antiaircraft positions signaled the end of 
major fighting. Corporal Joseph E. Fuller, a Com- 
pany M squad leader, was one of many infantrymen 
who recognized the value of Marine close air support 
during the night of 4 September. Referring to the 
strikes. Fuller later commented, "I'd like to thank 
the FAC that called it in ... I think that is what real- 
ly saved us."* 

Marine artillery fire from Que Son and Thang 
Binh continued to pound the North Vietnamese 
after the heaviest fighting subsided. Under the cover 
of artillery fire, UH-34 helicopters from Lieutenant 
Colonel Robert Lewis, Jr. 's HMM-363 delivered sup- 
plies and evacuated casualties. At 0100, Captain 
Francis M. Burke's Company I, 5th Marines fought 
its way to Hilgartner's positions. After its arrival, the 
enemy backed off and the rest of the night passed 
quietly. 

While these events took place, Lieutenant Colonel 
Webster's 3d Battalion Command Group and Com- 
pany D, 1st Marines received orders to join Com- 



*The O-l observation aircraft were not part of VMO-2 at this 
time. Instead they had their own ofFicer-in-charge who functioned 
directly under MAG-16. Colonel Philip M. Crosswait, comments 
on draft ms, I4jul81 (Vietnam comment files, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.). 



panics B and D to the west. Early on 5 September, 
Webster's force reached the two companies, at which 
time he assumed operational control. 

The same morning, 5 September, Hilgartner's 
troops searched the battle area and reported 130 
dead NVA soldiers and 37 captured weapons. 
Marine casualties were 54 killed and 104 wounded; 
among those killed was the 3d Battalion's chaplain. 
Lieutenant Vincent R. Capadonno, USNR. During 
Company M's heavy fighting, Chaplain Capadonno 
made repeated trips out of the perimeter to help 2d 
Platoon casualties. Wounded twice, he refused 
medical aid, continuing to help wounded until kill- 
ed by the enemy. Lieutenant Capadonno received a 
posthumous Medal of Honor for his gallantry; he 
was the first Navy chaplain killed in action in Viet- 
nam.* 

Although the NVA broke contact with the 
Marines, they did not leave the basin area. The 5th 
Marines commander. Colonel Davis, ordered his 1st 
and 3d Battalions to sweep toward the foothills 
bordering the southern edge of the basin. The morn- 
ing of the 6th, the two battalion command groups 
exhanged operational control of their respective 
companies and the 5th Marines continued the attack 
to the southeast. At 1515 that afternoon Hilgartner's 
companies ran into two battalions of the 1st VC 
Regiment near Vinh Huy (3). Lead elements of the 
Marine battalion came under fire from snipers and as 
the Marines continued to advance, heavy automatic 
weapons fire stopped the lead platoon, the 3d Pla- 
toon of Company B, in an open rice paddy. Captain 
Reese sent his 2d Platoon around to the right of the 
stalemated platoon to provide covering fire so that it 
could withdraw, but the 2d Platoon also came under 
extremely heavy and accurate fire which stopped its 
advance. The Marines took cover behind some graves 
and a hedgerow and once more tried to establish a 
base of fire to cover the 3d Platoon's withdrawal. 
Again, enemy fire superiority prevailed. Reese then 
sent the 1st Platoon further to the right in still 
another attempt to outflank the NVA. As the 1st 
Platoon moved, it found itself outflanked and 
almost surrounded. Forced to pull back almost im- 
mediately, the platoon had to leave some of its dead 
behind, but managed to bring out all of the wound- 
ed. While the North Vietnamese concentrated on 
the 1st Platoon, there was a lull in the firing in front 



*Sce Appendix D for Chaplain Capadonno's citation. 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



115 



of the 3d Platoon, so at last, it managed to pull back 
from the exposed paddy. 

Next, the NVA hit the 2d Platoon position with a 
frontal assault, as well as an envelopment of the 
right flank. Lance Corporal Lonnie R. Henshaw 
recalled: 

We looked up and saw many NVA in full uniforms, 
packs, and cartridge belts running across the rice paddy at 
us. We started shooting and we could see them falling, but 
they didn't stop and more and more of them kept coming. 
Nothing could stop them, it was like they were doped up.' 

The platoon commander. First Lieutenant John E. 
Brackeen, seeing the enemy's flanking attempt, 
ordered the platoon to fall back 50 meters to a trench 
line and set up a new perimeter. The NVA closed 
quickly and the enemy attack turned into a grenade 
duel. One landed in the trench near Lieutenant 
Brackeen and some of his men. The platoon guide. 
Sergeant Rodney M. Davis, seeing the danger to his 
lieutenant and the others, jumped on the grenade, 
taking the full impact of the explosion with his 
body. For thus giving his life, Sergeant Davis receiv- 
ed the Medal of Honor.* 

By now the enemy, in strength, was so close that 
Lieutenant Brackeen realized he could not hold the 
position much longer. He requested tear gas to cover 
the withdrawal of what was left of the platoon to the 
battalion perimeter. The tear gas worked and the 
Marines moved back to the battalion position with 
their wounded, but not their dead. 

After the gas attack to support Brackeen's 
withdrawal, enemy fire slackened, but as the gas 
dissipated the NVA renewed their assault. Artillery 
fire from Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Hunter, Jr. 's 
2d Battalion, 11th Marines landed within 50 meters 
of the Marine lines, while air strikes hit as close as 
100 meters from the position. The NVA assaults 
stopped; however, as night fell the battalion came 
under heavy mortar and rocket fire. NVA soldiers, 
crawling as close as 15 meters to the perimeter, 
began lobbing grenades into the lines, while others 
attempted to slip through the defenses. The bat- 
talion's S-3, Major Charles H. Black, checking a sec- 
tor of Company D's lines, discovered some of the in- 
filtrators. Major Black killed several of them as he 
rallied nearby Marines to drive out the others. The 
enemy attacked until about 0200, at which time they 
withdrew, leaving behind 61 bodies. The Marines 
had lost 35 killed and 92 wounded in the action. 



*See Appendix D for Sergeant Davis' citation. 



Northeast of the 1st Battalion action, the 3d Bat- 
talion also became heavily engaged on the afternoon 
of 6 September. By 1400, Lieutenant Colonel 
Webster's Marines had seized Hill 48, without 
meeting significant resistance. Webster then ordered 
Captain Francis M. Burke's Company I to seize Hill 
43, 1,100 meters southeast of Hill 48. When Burke's 
company was about 200 meters from the base of the 
hill, the lead elements saw two camouflaged NVA 
soldiers and opened fire on them. Automatic 
weapons fire erupted from the left front, but initial 
Communist resistance was light and the lead platoon 
continued to push through. Resistance began to stif- 
fen and Captain Burke ordered his other two pla- 
toons up on either flank of the lead platoon. All 
three platoons continued to push on. At 1630, heavy 
machine gun fire hit Burke's left platoon. The ad- 
vance stopped. Burke ordered the other two platoons 
to shift over to help the stalled platoon, but they also 
became heavily engaged. Finally the company 
managed to consolidate its position. Lieutenant Col- 
onel Webster ordered Company K to go to Burke's 
assistance. By the time that Company K had fought 
its way to Burke's position. Company I had many 
casualties, some of whom were still forward of the 
company front. With the arrival of the second com- 
pany, the Marines recovered most of their casualties 
and established a better perimeter. 

While the Marines consolidated their position, a 
UH-lE gunship from Lieutenant Colonel Philip M. 
Crosswait's VMO-2 reported a large number of NVA 
immediately south of the perimeter. The pilot cut 
short his report, saying that the enemy was, "... 
swarming all over the top of this hill and I've got to 
get to work."'" The gunship killed 23 NVA before it 
had to break off the attack to rearm and refuel. 

Between 1900 and 2300, Companies I and K 
repulsed two determined NVA assaults. Heavy 
machine guns supported both attacks and the second 
broke into the Marine positions before the Marines 
threw it back after furious hand-to-hand fighting. 
At 2300, Lieutenant Murray's Company M, the bat- 
talion reserve, joined Companies I and K. The 
enemy pressed the position until just after midnight 
when the Marines used tear gas to drive them off. 
Only a few mortar rounds interrupted the rest of the 
night. Dawn revealed 88 enemy bodies around the 
position. Webster's losses were 34 killed and 109 
wounded. 

At first light on 7 September, both battalions 
began searching the enemy dead for items of in- 



116 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



CD 

c ^ 

S ^e ^ 
^ ^ ^ J 

g) § I 




CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



117 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370399 
Operation Swift's objective was to destroy elements of the 2d NVA Division and deny 
the enemy access to the food derived from the basin's extensive rice paddies, such as 
these being crossed by Marines with the Sd Battalion, 5th Marines on 7 September, 



telligence value. They found a map which revealed 
the defensive positions of a battalion of the 1st VC 
Regiment. It pinpointed company and command 
post locations, as well as mortar positions and am- 
munition storage sites. This information triggered 
an attack to the east by Hilgartner's battalion. Sup- 
porting arms blasted the plotted enemy positions 
and then the infantry swept through them. As the 
operation progressed, on the 9th, the 1st Battalion 
Marines found 91 cases of small arms ammunition, 
27 cases of mortar rounds, hundreds of hand 
grenades, and 6 cases of 75mm recoilless rifle rounds 
as well as a vast assortment of loose ordnance. The 
Marines saved samples for intelligence purposes, and 
blew the rest in place.* 

At this time. General Robertson again activated 
Task Force X-Ray under the command of Brigadier 
General LaHue. X-Ray now included the U.S. 
Army's 1st Battalion, l4th Infantry, commanded by 
Lieutenant Colonel Peter P. Petro, USA. 
Simultaneously, the Vietnamese started their com- 
panion Operation Lien Ket 116. 



*Lieutenant Colonel William K. Rockey arrived by helicopter 
around noon that day, 7 September 1967, and assumed command 
of the 3d Battalion, 3th Marines from Lieutenant Colonel 
Webster. Colonel William K. Rockey, Comments on draft ms, 
28Jul81 (Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, Washmgton, D.C.) 



There were two more significant encounters dur- 
ing the last days of Operation Swift. The first occur- 
red on 10 September during a patrol northeast of 
Hill 43 by Captain Gene W. Bowers' Company H, 
2d Battalion, 5th Marines.* 

Early in the afternoon. Company H searched a 
small village and found it empty except for a few 
women and children. The Marines noted, however, 
that the enemy had fortified the village with 
bunkers, interlocking trenches, and barbed wire. 

Upon completion of its search of the village. Com- 
pany H continued its patrol. After moving another 
1,500 meters, the company established a defensive 
position on a small hill at about 1400 and requested 
resupply by helicopter. To provide additional securi- 
ty. Captain Bowers ordered Second Lieutenant Allan 
J. Herman's 3d Platoon to patrol around the hill in a 
circle with about a one-mile radius. The 3d Platoon 
departed the perimeter and a heavy rain began fall- 
ing. 

The patrol route took the 3d Platoon back to the 
small village which Company H had recently search- 
ed. In the interim, however, a reinforced North 
Vietnamese company had slipped back and reoc- 



*Captain Bowers' company served under the operational con- 
trol of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines at this time. 



118 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370397 
LCpl Patrick J. Ferguson, who had received a super- 
ficial gunshot wound in the left side in June, takes a 
breather on 7 September during Operation Swift. 
LCpl Ferguson, who is carrying an AN/PRC-47 
radio, was part of a forward air control team attached 
to the Sd Battalion, 3th Marines for the operation. 

cupied the well-constructed defensive positions. 
Herman's platoon reached the vicinity of the village 
around 1430 and began crossing the rice paddies 
around it. The North Vietnamese company remain- 
ed quiet until the lead squad of Marines was about 
to enter the village, then opened up with sudden, 
intense, automatic weapons fire, including 
.50-caliber machine guns, and virtually eliminated 
lead Marine squad. The heavy fire, supplemented by 
60mm mortars, gave the North Vietnamese fire 
superiority over the rest of the Marine platoon and it 
could not move. The platoon was soon leaderless; 
Lieutenant Herman died trying to rescue a wounded 
Marine in the rice paddy. 

Company H had just received its supplies by 
helicopter when Captain Bowers heard the sound of 
automatic weapons and mortars from the direction 
of the village. Since he could not contact the 3d Pla- 
toon by radio, Captain Bowers left a small con- 
tingent to guard the supplies and quickly moved the 
rest of his company toward the sound of the firing. 
Enroute, Bowers made radio contact with a wounded 



corporal from the 3d Platoon who described the 
situation, including the death of Lieutenant Her- 
man. 

Captain Bowers sent the 2d Platoon around to the 
left where it could provide a base of fire as well as 
cover by fire the enemy escape route from the rear of 
the village. The company headquarters and the 1st 
Platoon continued toward the 3d Platoon and at- 
tempted to gain fire superiority over the NVA unit. 
"Mortar and artillery fire," wrote Bowers, "was 
brought to bear on the enemy . . . with fire landing 
within 50 meters of friendly positions. Helicopter 
gunships arrived to rocket and strafe the NVA [posi- 
tions] while artillery sealed the rear of the village."" 

Company M, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, which 
the battalion commander sent to assist Company H, 
arrived on the scene and joined the fight. After 
several air strikes by fixed-wing aircraft armed with 
250-pound bombs, two A-4 aircraft dropped tear gas 
on the enemy. The two rifle companies then made a 
successful, coordinated assault on the village. Only a 
few NVA soldiers escaped out the other side of the 
village. 

After the assault, the Marines searched the village 
and counted 40 dead NVA soldiers above ground. 
Others, Bowers reported, probably lay buried in the 
bunkers and trenches collapsed by the artillery and 
air strikes. 

Nine Marines died in the action, six of them in the 
rice paddies just in front of the enemy fortifications. 
"[They] were found," noted Bowers in 1981, "with 
their M-16 rifles broken down in an attempt to 
remove cartridges jammed in the chambers. They 
had powder-burned bullet holes in their heads. "*^ 

The second engagement at the end of Operation 
Swift started at 0330 the morning of 12 September. 
Two NVA companies attacked Captain Burke's 
Company I patrol base. Burke's Marines repulsed the 
attack, but as the enemy withdrew they bumped in- 
to one of Captain Tenney's Company K platoon out- 
posts and received a further battering. NVA losses 
were 35 killed and four captured. 

During the same period, an ARVN ranger group 
operating north of the Swift AO during Operation 
Lien Ket 116 had two sizable contacts. The morning 
of 10 September, the 37th Ranger Battalion came 
under heavy mortar attack, followed by a ground 
assault by a NVA battalion. When the enemy finally 
withdrew, the rangers had lost 13 killed, 33 wound- 
ed, and 9 missing, but the NVA left 70 bodies 
behind. 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



119 



Elements of two enemy battalions hit the rangers 
again at 1700 on the 13th. The enemy closed to 
grenade range and heavy action continued until 
about 1900. That night, more ARVN units arrived 
in the area in helicopters to help the rangers. Both 
the 1st and 3d Battalions, 5th Marines debarked 
from helicopters in a secure LZ northeast of the 
engaged ranger group. The Marine battalions attack- 
ed south-southeast to relieve the pressure on the 
rangers, and by dawn, the NVA broke contact leav- 
ing 49 bodies on the battlefield. The rangers suf- 
fered 69 wounded and 15 killed in the engagement. 
This action was the last sizable encounter of both 
Swift and Lien Ket 116. 

Operation Swift ended on 15 September. Once 
more allied forces had driven the 2a NVA Division 
from the basin. The enemy's 1967 dry season offen- 
sive in the southern part of I Corps had failed. By the 
end of September allied commands regarded the 1st 
VC and 3a NVA Regiments unfit for combat. More 
than 4,000 enemy troops reportedly died between 21 
April, when Union I began, and the last day of 
September. A prime reason for this turn of events 
was the sudden arrival of a large U.S. Army force in 
Southern I Corps, which allowed III MAF units to 
operate in the Que Son Basin on a permanent basis, 
thereby breaking the Communist stranglehold on 
the area. 

Operation Swift's heavy, sustained combat created 
personnel accounting problems which were unusual 
in the kind of war most of the 1st Marine Division 
fought in 1967. The 5th Marines and the division 
encountered many difficulties during Swift with 
casualty reporting, recovery, evacuation, and 
disposition of the dead, as well as with what Colonel 
William R. Earney termed "the big No-No, " missing 
in action. "They [5th Marines] could tell you," com- 
mented Colonel Earney, "where the enemy v. is and 
their body count [of enemy dead] but not a com- 
prehensive report as to what their own condition 
was."'' The task of answering many of the personnel 
questions fell to the division staff, including, accor- 
ding to Colonel Earney, determining which morgue 
held the corpse of Medal of Honor recipient 
Capadonno before his brother arrived in South Viet- 
nam to view the body.'"* 

Other allied activity, both north and south of the 
Que Son Basin, also hurt Communist formations in I 
Corps. The enemy, buffeted between the allied 
forces in the basin and those in contiguous areas, lost 
the initiative. To the north. Colonel Herbert E. Ing's 



1st Marines continued to prod the VC around Hoi 
An. Operation Pike, conducted in early August, was 
one of the more significant operations in this area. 
Two Marine battalions. Lieutenant Colonel George 
E. Petro's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and Lieutenant 
Colonel Webster's 3d Battalion, 5th Marines ex- 
ecuted a box and sweep maneuver that accounted for 
100 enemy dead and four captured. South of the 
basin. General Knowles' Task Force Oregon con- 
ducted Operation Benton in the hills west of Chu Lai 
during the latter part of August. Army troops made 
a helicopter assault of a suspected enemy base camp 
and then drove south and east, encountering enemy 
platoons and companies. When Benton ended, on 1 
September, Task Force Oregon reported 397 NVA 
soldiers killed and nine captured. 

Much further south, between Quang Ngai and 
Due Pho, Task Force Oregon's Operation Malheur 
series, lasting from 11 May through 2 August, pro- 
duced a total of 857 enemy troops killed. A more 
important result was the opening of Route 1 from 
the border of II Corps to Dong Ha, the last section of 
this vital artery to be cleared in I Corps. 

Hood River followed Malheur II in a locale 25 
miles south of Quang Ngai City. Hood River occur- 
red in conjunction with the Korean Marine Brigade's 
Dragon Head V and the 2d ARVN Division's Lien 
Ket 110. The soldiers on Hood River claimed credit 
for 78 enemy dead and 45 prisoners. Army casualties 
were only three killed. 

All of these operations maintained constant 
pressure on the 2d NVA Division. Continual use of 
the search and destroy process in the basin and adja- 
cent areas from April through August by the 5th 
Marines, the Special Landing Force, and ARVN 
units forced the enemy to move south. As the Com- 
munists tried to regroup in the hills west of Chu Lai, 
Task Force Oregon pushed them back to the Que 
Son Basin to face the Marine and ARVN Swift-Lien 
Ket 116 operations. Once more the enemy 
withdrew, this time trying to escape to the hills near 
Tam Ky. There four U.S. Army battalions were on 
hand to meet the remnants of the 2d NVA Division 
during Operation Wheeler. Task Force Oregon 
became the Americal Division on 22 September and 
by the end of that month the soldiers of the Army 
division had killed an additional 442 Communists. 
Once more they drove the NVA units back into the 
basin. A new opponent was waiting for the North 
Vietnamese division. 



120 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



A Busy Calm Before the Storm 

Increased September activity in I Corps once more 
caused General Westmoreland to send rein- 
forcements north. On 4 October, Colonel James D. 
McKenna's 3d Brigade, 1st U.S. Cavalry Division, 
having been transferred to III MAF and, in turn, to 
the Americal Division, began Operation Wallowa in 
the Que Son Basin. With the arrival of this brigade, 
the Americal Division took over responsibility for 
the entire basin and the 5th Marines moved to Hoi 
An, relieving Colonel Ing's 1st Marines there. 
Operational control of the 1st Marines shifted from 
the 1st to 3d Marine Division and Colonel Ing then 
moved his headquarters and two battalions to the 
northern provinces of I Corps. >' 

Most operations in southern I Corps during the 
last three months of 1967 reflected the enemy's 
desire to avoid casualties, but even in this the enemy 
was unsuccessful. The Americal Division, now com- 
manded by Major General Samuel W. Koster, USA, 
continued to harry the 2d NVA Division in the Que 
Son Valley as the Communists frantically tried to 
collect rice and supplies there. During October, the 
Army units, engaged in Operation Wheeler and 
Wallowa, were in almost constant contact with small 
NVA units. By the end of the month Operation 
Wheeler had reported 498 enemy killed, while 
Wallowa recorded another 675 NVA dead. 

During November, the Americal Division com- 
bined Operations Wheeler and Wallowa as Opera- 
tion Wheeler/ Wallowa and a force of seven U.S. Ar- 
my battalions, more than twice the number 
previously available, deployed in the area. The army 
battalions systematically pursued NVA elements as 
they tried to escape to the mountains in the west. 
Ancillary operations such as the 2d Battalion, 5th 
Marines' Essex in "Antenna Valley," six miles south 
of An Hoa, drove the enemy back against the Army 
units in the basin. 

There were two main engagements with NVA 
forces in Antenna Valley during Operation Essex.* 
Both involved company-sized attacks on fortified 
villages which the North Vietnamese chose to de- 
fend. Lieutenant Colonel George C. McNaughton, 
commander of the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 
described these fortified villages in his after-action 
report: 



In each instance, the village had a wire fence around the 
perimeter . . . concisting of three to six strands of cattle 
fence with woven wire running up and down through the 
horizontal strands. The wire fence line was cither conceal- 
ed in bamboo tree lines or camouflaged with bamboo and 
shrubs. Behind these perimeter fences, the enemy had dug 
a communication trench . . . that was four to six feet deep 
with firing positions and deep caves for protection against 
artillery and air attack. Some of these caves were fifteen 
feet deep. Spider holes, caves, and bunkers were found in 
depth through the village. Fortifications were carefully 
located to achieve an interlocking and mutually suppor- 
ting series of defensive positions. Both [villages] were 
located such that attacking infantry had to cross stream 
barriers [to reach] the defensive positions. As attacking 
troops emerged from the stream beds, they found 
themselves to be within close range (30-150 meters) of the 
enemy perimeter defenses with open rice paddy in be- 
tween. [Both villages were] situated on the sides of the 
valley adjacent to high ground such that the enemy had 
ready routes of egress into the mountains.'* 

Both Marine attacks took place during afternoon 
hours and the enemy force successfully defended its 
positions into the night. In each case, however, the 
NVA defenders withdrew from the fortified posi- 
tions under cover of darkness in spite of continuous 
artillery fire in and behind the village. "In 
summary," wrote McNaughton, "when Marine units 
attacked the villages in the afternoon, the enemy 
defended with vigor. When Marine units delayed an 
attack until dawn and conducted heavy preparation 
by air and artillery, the NVA units made their 
escape."" 

Company H, commanded by Captain Gene W. 
Bowers, conducted one of the fortified village 
assaults. Bowers used tactics similar to those that had 
succeeded so well in a similar situation during 
Operation Swift. 

Company H had landed by helicopter in Antenna 
Valley earlier in the day, as had the rest of the 2d 
Battalion, 5th Marines.* The company then pro- 
ceeded toward its assigned objective, the village of 
Ap Bon (2) in the northeast portion of the valley. As 
it approached the objective. Company H made 
heavy contact with a large enemy force within the 
village. 

Captain Bowers ordered Second Lieutenant 
Duane V. Sherin to maneuver his 2d Platoon to the 
left of the village and then envelop the enemy. The 
platoon, however, ran into more NVA soldiers in the 



*In Operation Mississippi in Antenna Valley during the fall of 
1966, the Marines evacuated more than 2,000 refugees. Less than 
600 civilians remained in the entire valley in 1967. 



*Company F, according to the original plan, was not scheduled 
to participate in Operation Essex. It was to remain in the bat- 
talion's primary TAOR as a rapid reaction force. 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



121 







Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189790 
Ue 2d Battalion, 3th Marines boards helicopters in November for Operation Essex in 
Antenna Valley, six miles south of An Hoa. Essex drove the 2d NVA Division back into 
the Que Son Basin where the Americal Division was conducting Wheeler I Wallowa. 



heavy brush west of the village, sustained two 
Marines killed and several wounded, and then, on 
Bowers' orders, withdrew with its casualties back to 
the company. Upon its arrival at the company posi- 
tion, Bowers directed the 2d Platoon to move to the 
company's right flank and establish a base of fire for 
an assault on the village by the 1st and 3d Platoons. 
The assault began after air and artillery strikes on Ap 
Bon(2). Bowers recalled the subsequent action: 

The assault was well-coordinated and executed, main- 
taining continuous fire superiority over the enemy until 
the assault line reached the bamboo hedgerow on the 
periphery of the village. Eight taut strands of U.S. [-type] 
barbed wire were unexpectedly encountered woven among 
the bamboo stalks. As the Marines fought to break 
through tlje barrier, .50 caliber machine guns from 800 
meters on the right flank and 800 meters on the left flank 
commenced enfilading, grazing fire down the line of barb- 
ed wire, as 60mm, 82mm, and 4.2-inch mortar rounds 
began impacting m the paddy before the village. One pla- 
toon commander. Second Lieutenant Robert W. Miller, 
Jr., was killed and both platoon sergeants were severely 
wounded. The assault faltered and the Marines took cover, 
protected by small inter-paddy dikes. '^ 

The fighting developed into an exchange of rifle 
fire and grenades as reported air strikes hit the 
village. Some bombs and napalm fell within 50 
meters of the exposed Marines in the paddies. Cap- 
tain Bowers requested reinforcements and Captain 



Edward J. "Buck" Byer, Jr.'s Company F arrived 
about 1600. With Company H acting as a base of 
fire on the village. Company F made an assault 
which the North Vietnamese repulsed. 







Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189791 
Marine UH-34Ds land the 2d Battalion, }th Marines 
in abandoned rice paddies in Antenna Valley at the 
beginning of Operation Essex. Few civilians remain- 
ed in the area after the evacuation of the valley in the 
fall of 1966 by Marines in Operation Mississippi. 



122 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



At dusk, both companies moved back about 70 
meters, carrying all wounded Marines and equip- 
ment, and established night defensive positions. 
The North Vietnamese maintained pressure on the 
two companies until almost dawn despite flares and 
machine gun fire from AC- 130s, which fired on 
targets within 10 meters of the Marines. Around 
0430, the North Vietnamese slipped away. 

At dawn, the two Marine companies advanced 
and searched the village without resistance. There 
were no enemy bodies. All bunkers and trenches had 
collapsed under the intensive artillery and air strikes. 
The Marine companies had suffered 53 serious 
casualties, including 16 dead, in the fighting of Ap 
Bon (2). 

The following days involved pursuit of small 
groups of fleeing NVA soldiers. On 10 November, 
the 2d Battalion captured an NVA aspirant (officer 
cadet) who claimed to have been in Ap Bon (2) on 6 
November. He said the village had contained a divi- 
sion headquarters battalion. A direct bomb hit on 
the command post bunker killed the battalion com- 
mander; 60 enlisted men died in the fighting and 
many were severely wounded. Operation Essex end- 
ed a few days later, on the 17th. 

By the end of December, cumulative reports for 




Department of Defense Phojo (USMC) A370661 
A member of the 2d Battalion, 1th Marines' 81 mm 
Mortar Platoon, chilled and wet from the monsoon 
rains, takes a rest during Operation Pitt in De- 
cember. Pitt was one of several operations late in the 
year which the 1st Marine Division conducted to pro- 
tect the Da Nang air base from enemy rocket attacks. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A371053 
LCpl C. M. Wolfe, clad in a rain suit as protection from the cold monsoon rains in 
December, takes a message over an AN/PRC-23 radio. He and other members of the 2d 
Battalion, 7 th Marines on Operation Pitt have fashioned a "hooch" from ponchos as pro- 
tection from the weather. Air mattresses in the shelter keep the Marines out of the mud. 



CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST THE 2D NVA DIVISION 



f 



123 



Wheeler/ Wallowa cited 3,188 enemy killed, 87 cap- 
tured, and 743 weapons seized, while U.S. Army 
units listed their own losses as 258 killed and 1,190 
wounded. As 1967 ended there could be little ques- 
tion that control of the Que Son Basin was returning 
to the South Vietnamese Government. 

North of the Que Son Valley, in the 1st Marine 
Division's Quang Nam Province zone of action, the 
level of enemy contacts dropped during this period. 
Fifth Marines units executed Operations Onslow and 
Essex, while elements of the 7th Marines conducted 
Knox, Foster, Pitt, Citrus, and Auburn. All of these 
operations were designed to keep the enemy out of 
the Da Nang rocket belt. The most significant of 
these was Foster and a companion SLF operation, 
Badger Hunt.* 

Foster/ Badger Hunt followed two savage Viet 
Cong attacks against the district headquarters and 
refugee settlement at Due Due and Dai Loc, 15 miles 
southwest of Da Nang. The attacks killed 34 
civilians, wounded 42, and another 51 were reported 
missing. In addition, the enemy destroyed 559 
houses and left 625 families homeless. 



*See Chapter 10 for the SLF participation in Badger Hunt. 



The Marines retaliated with Operation Foster, 
conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Roger H. 
Barnard's 3d Battalion, 7th Marines and Operation 
Badger Hunt utilizing SLF Bravo's BLT 2/3, com- 
manded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Englisch. 
Both were coordinated search and destroy endeavors 
in the river complex of the Dai Loc District and in 
the flatlands and foothills west of the An Hoa in- 
dustrial complex. Intelligence reports placed the 
Viet Cong R-20 and V-2^ Battalions and the Q-15 
Company in these areas. 

The operation began at 0900 on 13 November. 
BLT 2/3 landed by helicopter west of An Hoa, and 
two hours later Barnard's Marines landed northwest 
of the complex near Dai Loc. Initially there were 
numerous contacts with small groups of VC trying to 
escape. The Marines uncovered many VC bunkers 
and logistic areas. With the exception of one 
company-size fight on 29 November, the enemy 
concentrated on escaping. Marine reconnaissance 
and air observers sighted numerous fleeing enemy 
groups; artillery and air strikes directed against these 
groups caused the majority of enemy casualties in- 
flicted during Foster. For the Marine infantry units, 
the operation was more successful in terms of 



The rotor wash from a medevac helicopter, not to mention the proximity of the aircraft 
itself, forces men of the 5d Battalion, 7 th Marines to duck during Operation Foster, one 
of the operations protecting the Da Nang air base complex from enemy rocket attacks. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A371016 




124 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370659 
Patrols in the rugged interior of South Vietnam could encounter dangers other than 
enemy soldiers. Three men of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, wearing unorthodox 
uniforms, proudly display the hide of a tiger they killed during a five-day patrol. They 
are, from left, LCpl James Ortega, LCpl Thomas L. Little, and Sgt James L. Griffith. 



destruction of enemy supplies and installations than 
enemy killed. The Marines destroyed 6,000 enemy 
buildings, bunkers, tunnels, and shelters and un- 
covered rice caches totaling 87 tons. By the end of 
the operation, 30 November, reported enemy 
casualties totaled 125 killed and eight captured. 
More important than the personnel losses inflicted 
on the enemy, the Marines evacuated more than 
11,500 refugees from the Communist-dominated 



area. 



The loss of a large, readily available labor and 
manpower pool annoyed the local Communist 
leaders. Previously, the enemy, following the Com- 
munist guerrilla dictum that the good will of the 
people must be preserved, had been very selective in 
targeting acts of terror. During December, as the 
Marines challenged their hold on the populace, 
Communist terror attacks increased, demonstrating 
that the "liberating" Communists were not really 



concerned about popular good will. Distrust of the 
Communists spread in the refugee communities. In- 
tended to force the refugees to abandon their 
Government-sponsored settlements, the terror raids 
caused grave doubts about the promises made by the 
Viet Cong. 

The refugees from western Quang Nam Province, 
like those from the Que Son Basin and the coastal 
plains of Quang Ngai Province, demonstrated a 
desire not to be incorporated in the Communist 
system. Would they rally to the South Vietnamese 
Government and be loyal citizens? The next step was 
the implementation of the pacification program to 
win the support of the mass of displaced, confused, 
and often apathetic residents bf Vietnam's food- 
producing regions. In I Corps it was III MAF's job to 
provide the physical security for the Vietnamese 
Government's pacification efforts. It would prove to 
be a tough, unrewarding, tedious assignment. 



CHAPTER 10 

Fall Fighting in the North 

operation Kingfisher— Medina I Bastion Hill I Lam Son 138 
Adjustments Within the 3d Marine Division 



Operation Kingfisher 

After the conclusion of Operation Buffalo, III 
MAF ordered a sweep of the southern half of the 
DMZ. The Marines intended for the operation. 
Hickory II, to destroy enemy fortifications, mortar, 
and artillery positions in the southern portion of the 
buffer zone. The concept resembled that employed 
during Operation Hickory, the Marines' initial entry 
into the area on 18 May. 

During Hickory II, two Marine battalions, one 
from SLF Alpha, attacked north to the Ben Hai 
River, wheeled about, and swept southward to the 
Cam Lo River. BLT 2/3 of SLF Bravo screened the in- 
land left flank, while to the east three ARVN bat- 
talions and an armored personnel carrier troop ad- 
vanced up Route 1 to the Ben Hai, then turned and 
attacked southward. On the coast east of the ARVN 
thrust. Lieutenant Colonel Albert R. Bowman II's 
1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion drove northward 
through the coastal sand dunes from Cua Viet. 
There was little resistance. The sharpest action occur- 
red on 15 July, when Bowman's battalion engaged 
an enemy unit four miles east of Gio Linh, killing 
25. Marine casualties, when the operation ended on 
16 July, were four killed and 90 wounded. Total 
NVA losses totaled 39 killed and 19 weapons cap- 
tured. 

At the close of Hickory II, the two SLF battalions, 
upon release by III MAF, returned to a ready status 
off the coast of I Corps, but the remaining five bat- 
talions which comprised the 3d and 9th Marines 
began a new operation in the same general area. 
Called Operation Kingfisher, its mission, as in 
previous operations along the DMZ, was to block 
NVA entry into Quang Tri Province. From the 16th 
through the 27th there were only minor contacts. 

On 28 July the 3d Marine Division sent Lieutenant 
Colonel William D. Kent's 2d Battalion, 9th 
Marines, reinforced with a platoon of tanks, three 
Ontos, three LVTEs, and engineers, on a spoiling at- 



tack into the DMZ. The main body, including the 
tracked vehicles, moved north on Provincial Route 
606 with Companies E and G providing security on 
the flanks. Company F remained in a landing zone 
south of Con Thien, ready to board helicopters and 
exploit any heavy contact with the enemy. 

There was no contact; the armored column moved 
north without incident. The terrain, however, 
restricted the tracked vehicles to the road and thick 
vegetation made movement difficult for the flanking 
companies. Further, the terrain canalized the col- 
umn into a relatively narrow "V" of land bounded by 
the Ben Hai River on the west and north and a 
tributary stream to the east. The reinforced battalion 
would have to return by the same route by which it 
entered the DMZ.* The North Vietnamese were 
already moving units into previously prepared posi- 
tions covering Route 606. 

The North Vietnamese did not molest the Marines 
in their night defensive positions near the Ben Hai 
River. The following morning, the 2d Battalion 
scouted the objective area and destroyed several 
small abandoned fortification complexes. 

Late in the morning the battalion began its move- 
ment south out of the DMZ. It would move in a col- 
umn led by Company E and followed by Command 
Group A, H&S Company, Command Group B, and 
Companies F, H, and G. An airborne forward air 
controller circled overhead; he would soon be busy. 

Company E began moving south at 1000; at 1115 
the enemy detonated a 250-lb bomb buried in the 
road, wounding five Marines. Nearby, engineers 
found a similar bomb, rigged as a command- 
detonated mine, and destroyed it. 

Upon the second explosion. North Vietnamese 
soldiers near the road opened fire on the column 
with machine guns, rifles, and 60mm and 82mm 



*Major Willard H. Woodring, commanding the 3d Battalion, 
9th Marines, raised these objections at a division briefing prior to 
the operation. Oslonel John C. Studt, Qjmments on draft ms, 
9Jul81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



125 




FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



V , 



* 





\ 



3d MarDiv ComdC 

T/je 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, supported by tanks from the SdTank Battalion, moves 
through the open terrain south of the Ben Hai River in Operation Hickory II in July. 



July 1967 



An armored column, composed of tanks, Ontos, amphibian tractors, and infantrymen 
from the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines moves unopposed toward the Ben Hai River inside 
the Demilitarized Zone on 28 July. NVA units, however, already were moving in 
behind the column and it would have to fight its way south to safety the following day. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 19 1240 




FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



127 



mortars, initiating a running battle that did not end 
until dark. The NVA units, using heavy fire from 
prepared positions combined with the maneuver of 
other units, quickly fragmented the armored column 
into roughly company-sized segments. Each isolated 
segment fought its own way through the gauntlet of 
fire. 

The tracked vehicles became more of a liability 
than a tactical asset. They were restricted to the road 
because the thick brush provided excellent cover for 
NVA soldiers armed with antitank weapons. Instead 
of providing support to the infantry Marines, the 
tracked vehicles required infantry protection. Using 
them as ambulances to transport the wounded fur- 
ther reduced the vehicles' ability to fight. 

Tracked vehicles suffered all along the column. 
An RPG round penetrated both sides of an LVTE 
moving with Company E. Another RPG explosion 
disabled the turret of a tank with Company F, woun- 
ding three crewmen. When Company H brought up 
an Ontos to suppress NVA fire that was holding up 
its movement, an RPG gunner hit the vehicle and 
wounded three crewmen. A second Ontos came for- 
ward, beat down the enemy fire with its machine 
gun, and permitted the company to move again. 

The infantry's primary fire support came from the 
airborne controllers, one of whom was on station 
throughout the day. The controller maintained con- 
tact with air representatives with each company and 
with the battalion air liaison officer. The airborne 
forward air controller directed fixed-wing air strikes 
whenever needed. The Marine infantrymen needed 
them often. 

The North Vietnamese units knew the danger 
from American supporting arms and attempted to 
stay close to the Marine column. Company F had 
hardly cleared its night defensive position when it 
realized an NVA unit had immediately occupied the 
position. At another point. Marine engineers with 
Company E spotted a 12.7mm antiaircraft machine 
gun just off the road. They attacked, killed seven 
NVA soldiers, and destroyed the weapon and its am- 
munition. At the rear of the column, Company G 
had problems with enemy units following in its trace 
and maneuvering back and forth across the road. 
Company G killed 12 and wounded 10 of these 
soldiers; an attached scout-sniper team killed 
another 15. Shortly afterward, an enemy assault 
from the flank almost cut the company in two, but 
the attack failed. 

Shortly after Company F took its place in the col- 



umn, it received instructions to establish a helicopter 
landing zone for evacuating casualties from Com- 
pany E and H&S Company. When the tanks carrying 
the dead and wounded reached the zone, the enemy 
opened up with RPGs, machine guns, and 60mm 
and 82mm mortars. The mortar fire walked across 
the entire landing zone. In addition to the earlier 
casualties, the Marines now had anothr seven men 
killed and 31 more Marines and Navy corpsmen 
wounded. 

A gap then developed between the rear of H&S 
Company and Company F. The latter company load- 
ed the casualties in the zone on the tanks and attack- 
ed to close the gap. It did so at the cost of a further 
two dead and 12 wounded by NVA mortar fire. The 
company resumed its fight south. 

Late in the afternoon, Company E and Command 
Group A managed to break through the enemy to 
safety. They left behind, however, two Company E 
squads which could not move because of intense 
enemy automatic weapons and rifle fire that killed 
two and wounded nine Marines. Company E and the 
command group continued on until they linked up 
at 1830 with Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines 
which had moved up from Con Thien. 

By this time the other companies of the 2d Bat- 
talion were no longer able to continue south; there 
were too many casualties to move. At 1930, Com- 
pany H drew back and established a defensive posi- 
tion on high ground at the edge of the clearing 
through which Route 606 passed at that point. Join- 
ing Company H were Company F, two other squads 
from Company E, two squads from Company G, 
plus H&S Company. It was an all-infantry force; the 
tracked vehicles, carrying some of the wounded, had 
broken through to join the lead elements at the posi- 
tion of Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. 

Company G's movement came to an end about 
the same time. It could no longer both fight and 
transport its wounded. By 2100, the company was in 
a defensive position for the night. 

The two isolated squads from Company E found 
themselves rescued early in the evening. Lieutenant 
Colonel Kent had taken operational control of Com- 
pany M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines and accompanied 
that unit back to the two squads. They accomplished 
the mission by 1930 and Company M moved into a 
good defensive position for the night. To the south, 
the bulk of Company E organized its defenses and 
called in medevac helicopters for the casualties. 

The remainder of the night was relatively quiet; 



128 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



the NVA units were pulling back. Company G and 
Company F both heard much shouting west of their 
respective positions and called in artillery missions. 
The final event of the fight occurred at 0330 when 
an NVA soldier crept up to Company F's perimeter 
and killed one Marine and wounded three with a 
burst of automatic weapons fire. Other Marines 
opened fire and the NVA soldier withdrew. 

The following morning, the 30th, helicopters 
evacuated all casualties located at Company G's posi- 
tion. Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines and 
Lieutenant Colonel Kent moved north to link up 
with the rest of the 2d Battalion. The Marines 
evacuated the remainder of the casualties by 0900 
and all units were out of the DMZ by 11 50 behind a 
screen provided by the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. 

The gauntlet had been costly for Lieutenant Col- 
onel Kent's 2d Battalion. Twenty-three Marines died 
and the wounded totaled 251, of whom 191 re- 
quired evacuation. There were 32 confirmed NVA 
dead but the battalion estimated another 175 pro- 
bably died. 

While the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines' battle quick- 
ly entered the division's folklore as "2/9's armored 
thrust into the DMZ,"' an earlier and relatively 
minor action on Route 9 had a more lasting impact 
on the tactical situation in northern I Corps. It led to 



an end to vehicle convoys to Khe Sanh; thereafter, 
the base relied upon aerial resupply. 

Ill MAF supplied Khe Sanh at the time by aircraft 
and "Rough Rider" vehicle convoys from Dong Ha. 
One of the largest of the convoys, composed of over 
85 vehicles and several U.S. Army 175mm guns,^ 
departed Dong Ha on 21 July. Part of its route pass- 
ed through the TAOR of Lieutenant Colonel Robert 
C. Needham's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines. This gave 
the battalion the responsibility for securing that por- 
tion of Route 9. 

Lieutenant Colonel Needham ordered his Com- 
pany M to send a platoon out that morning to sweep 
Route 9 from Ca Lu west to the boundary between 
the regimental TAORs of the 3d and 26th Marines. 
The convoy departed Dong Ha at about the same 
time as the 2d Platoon, Company M began its check 
of the road. 

The 2d Platoon searched Route 9 without incident 
for about five kilometers. Then the point surprised 
an NVA soldier urinating beside the road.' The 
point opened fire; other NVA soldiers answered with 
rifle fire from high ground north of the road and 
from a tree line south of it. The whole platoon 
quickly became engaged with what the platoon com- 
mander first believed was an NVA platoon. He soon 
changed his estimate to an NVA battalion. 



Infantrymen of the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines move into the safety of the perimeter of 
the 5 d Battalion, 4th Marines on 30 July after a running battle the previous day with 
NVA units that fought to fragment the column and destroy the reinforced Marine bat- 
talion piecemeal as it came back south from the Ben Hai River and out of the DMZ. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189064 





FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



129 



The 3d Battalion, 3d Marines ordered the platoon 
to disengage but the unit could not do so. The bat- 
talion staff at Ca Lu worked quicky to coordinate air 
and artillery support and alerted the rest of Com- 
pany M to prepare to move to the 2d Platoon's 
rescue. In the midst of this activity, the Rough Rider 
convoy's arrival at Ca Lu created some confusion.^ 
The battalion requested and received permission to 
halt the convoy immediately since there was only one 
place between Ca Lu and the 2d Platoon's position 
where the convoy could be turned around.' 

Company M moved toward the firefight with two 
U.S. Army vehicles in support. One of these 
mounted dual 40mm cannon, the other carried a 
quad-. 50 machine gun. As the force neared the 2d 
Platoon, the enemy fired approximately 200 rounds 
from 82mm mortars at the road. Enemy riflemen 
opened fire from the high ground north of the road. 

Under the cover of fixed-wing aircraft strikes on 
the high ground and heavy fire from the two Army 
vehicles. Company M reached its 2d Platoon and the 
Marines disengaged. Two tanks came up from Ca Lu 
and provided additional fire against the tree line to 
the south. The combined force then returned to Ca 
Lu. 

The Rough Rider convoy could not continue to 
Khe Sanh until the road was secure. The division 
ordered it to turn around and return to Camp Car- 
roll. 

At noon the following day, the 22d, the 3d Bat- 
talion, 3d Marines, using its own Company L and 
Companies A and C of the 9th Marines, moved 
against the enemy positions north of Route 9. There 
was only scattered contact with the enemy; however, 
the Marines found ample evidence the previous day's 
action had prevented a major ambush of the Rough 
Rider convoy to Khe Sanh. They found 150 well- 
camouflaged fighting holes in the area where the 2d 
Platoon had engaged the enemy. The North Viet- 
namese obviously had constructed the fighting holes 
for a horseshoe-shaped ambush whose killing zone 
was the open road. Nearby was a large, abandoned 
NVA base camp containing another 200 fighting 
holes and 25 two- and four-man log bunkers 
camouflaged with dirt and elephant grass. The camp 
also contained several huts, some for sleeping and 
others for cooking. 

The following day Company K, 3d Marines, sup- 
ported by tanks and Army M42 "Dusters" (the latter 
mounting dual 40mm cannon), joined the operation 
and attacked Hill 216 north of, and overlooking the 



NVA ambush site on Route 9. Company K ran into 
heavy machine gun fire from a bunker complex on 
the hill's east slope which killed one Marine and 
wounded two. The company called in an artillery 
mission and the supporting tracked vehicles opened 
fire on the enemy. Company K then pulled back to 
allow fixed-wing aircraft plenty of room to bomb the 
bunkers. At the completion of the strike, Company 
K attacked, but the NVA unit had gone. The 
Marines continued to the crest of Hill 216. 

Later that afternoon, fixed-wing aircraft bombed 
Hill 247, located west of Hill 216 and which also 
overlooked Route 9. Following the air strike, Com- 
pany L, 3d Marines moved west on Route 9 and link- 
ed up with Company B, 26th Marines which had 
cleared the road from the western edge of the 26th 
Marines' TAOR. 

During its move, Company L uncovered 30 
Chinese-made anti-personnel mines buried along 
approximately 2,000 meters of the southern margin 
of Route 9. The enemy had rigged the mines with 
trip wires to catch the Marines and soldiers from the 
Rough Rider convoy as they sought cover from the 
planned ambush. 

With Route 9 cleared, the Rough Rider convoy, 
minus any 175mm guns, completed the trip to Khe 
Sanh on the 25th. The whole episode, however, 
changed the thinking about resupply for Khe Sanh. 
There was one more large convoy to Khe Sanh and a 
few to the Lang Vei Special Forces camp, but these 
ended in early August. There were no other convoys 
to Khe Sanh until Operation Pegasus opened Route 
9 at the end of the "siege" of Khe Sanh in 1968.* 

For the next few weeks only scattered, small-scale 
fighting took place. Intelligence analysts reported 
the probability of a major enemy offensive in the 
region. They reported a large buildup of supplies 
north of the DMZ, and estimated at least five Com- 
munist battalions were preparing for offensive 
operations. Sighting reports of vehicles north of the 
Ben Hai increased substantially, including, for the 
first time, reports of armored vehicles there. 

The first outburst of renewed NVA ground activi- 
ty in the Kingfisher area happened in the 
southwestern portion of the TAOR on the morning 
of 21 August. A North Vietnamese battalion am- 



*Roben Pisor's The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sanh 
(New York: 1982), p. 94 says the convoy with the 173nim guns 
had "... run into 'one horrendous ambush' and turned 
back. . . ." The NVA's planned ambush literally might have been 
"horrendous" except for one NVA soldier's bladder discomfort. 



130 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A193261 

CH-33 helicopters bring 105mm howitzers of Battery I, 12th Marines to Hill 881 South 
near Khe Sanh on 3 August following intelligence reports of an NVA buildup nearby. 



bushed a small Marine convoy traveling south on 
Route 9 from the Rockpile to Ca Lu. In the first 
moments of the attack, enemy antitank rockets hit 
and put out of action two Marine trucks and two 
Army track-mounted, dual 40mm guns of the 1st 
Battalion, 44th Artillery. The security force with the 
convoy returned fire and radioed for air and artillery 
support. Company L of Lieutenant Colonel Robert 
C. Needham's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines came down 
from the Rockpile, and a reinforced platoon from 
Company M moved up from Ca Lu. These 
maneuvers trapped the ambushers. The action lasted 
for more than six hours as the Marine units, sup- 
ported by air and artillery, converged on the NVA 
battalion. As night fell the enemy broke contact and 
fled to the west. Confirmed Communist losses were 
light, but 3 Marines and 3 Army artillerymen died, 
with another 35 wounded. 

The North Vietnamese tried again on 7 
September at almost the same location, but again 
the enemy commander miscalculated the location of 
Marine forces, their ability to maneuver, and the 
speed with which the Marines could bring suppor- 
ting arms to bear. The NVA ambushed a convoy at 
1010, and again Marine units converged on the site 
from the north and south. This time the battle con- 
tinued for more than eight hours. The Marines killed 
92 of the enemy before the fight ended at dusk. 
American casualties in this encounter totaled five 
killed and 56 wounded. 



Additional indications that the Communists re- 
mained determined to achieve a victory at Con 
Thien became evident during late August. To gain 
maximum propaganda effect, the North Vietnamese 
timed their new offensive to coincide with the South 
Vietnamese elections scheduled for 3 September. As 
the date for the elections approached, the NVA fired 
an increasing volume of artillery and rockets across 
the DMZ at Cua Viet, Gio Linh, and Con Thien. On 
26 August these hit Dong Ha in three separate at- 
tacks; 150 rocket and artillery rounds destroyed two 
helicopters and damaged 24 others. 

The most effective and spectacular of these attacks 
took place on election day. Forty-one artillery rounds 
slammed into Dong Ha base that morning, destroy- 
ing the ammunition storage area and bulk fuel farm 
and damaged 17 helicopters of Major Horace A. 
Bruce's HMM-361. Damage control teams fought 
the fire and explosions for four hours before they 
controlled the situation. Miraculously, no one died, 
but 77 suffered wounds, one seriously. Spectators as 
far away as Phu Bai could see the billowing smoke 
cloud that rose over the base. Because of this and 
similar attacks, III MAF moved the logistics base in 
1968 from Dong Ha to Quang Tri, beyond the range 
of the enemy's 130mm guns.^ 

The attack on 3 September ended the use of Dong 
Ha as a permanent helicopter squadron base facility. 
HMM-361 personnel flew back to the Marble Moun- 
tain facility that day in the CH-53s of HMM-463. AH 




3d MarDiv ComdC, August 1967 
Firemen contain the fire at the Dong Ha combat 
base following a rocket attack on 26 August, just a 
week before NVA artillery destroyed the fuel facility . 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A355576 
A burned-out Marine cargo truck sits in the middle 
of the rubble of the ammunition storage area at 
Dong Ha after the 3 September artillery attack. 



Marines fight to save the fuel storage area at Dong Ha after a rocket attack on 26 A ugust. 
Some are trying to put out the fire while others cool down the remaining fuel bladders. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, August 1967 




132 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



of HMM-36rs aircraft caught on the ground suf- 
fered damage from blast, shrapnel, or both and the 
CH-53s had to lift them to Marble Mountain. Until 
III MAF readied a new field at Quang Tri, helicopter 
support for the DMZ area came from squadrons at 
Marble Mountain and Phu Bai.^ 

Brigadier General Metzger had good reasons for 
vividly remembering these attacks. He recalled: 

When one of the attacks hit Dong Ha I was in a UH-IE 
on the pad getting ready to take off. The pilot lifted off 
the ground and turned to the south, thereby flying right 
through the barrage of "incoming." We felt the "bird" 
shudder and knew we were hit. After a futile attempt to 
spot the enemy firing batteries, we finally landed at Camp 
Evans and examined the plane. There was a hole about 15 
inches in diameter in the tail. We were fortunate!' 

Con Thien was the primary NVA artillery target. 
During September, the North Vietnamese subjected 
the Marines there to one of the heaviest shellings of 
the war. The hill itself, known to local missionaries 
as "The Hill of Angels," was only big enough to ac- 
commodate a reinforced battalion. Almost daily Con 
Thien's defenders could expect at least 200 rounds of 
enemy artillery fire, and on 25 September more than 
1,200 shells rained down upon the position. The 
completed "Dye Marker" bunkers at Con Thien pro- 
vided some cover as the NVA artillery and rocket at- 
tacks escalated. 1° 

Under cover of the artillery and rocket attacks, 
enemy ground activity increased. The NVA's main 
thrust was to the south and southeast of Con Thien. 
Since the beginning of Operation Kingfisher, the 
9th Marines had been operating in that area with a 
force varying between three and six battalions. The 
level of combat was light, but enemy resistance 
began to stiffen at the end of August. 

On 4 September, Lieutenant Colonel Bendell's 3d 
Battalion, 4th Marines met strong opposition. At 
1100 that morning, the battalion's Company I, com- 
manded by Captain Richard K. Young, engaged an 
enemy force 1,500 meters south of Con Thien. The 
company pressed the enemy unit, but by 1400 its ad- 
vance halted because of the volume of enemy fire. 
Company M and the battalion command group 
moved to the left of Company I and, after extensive 
artillery preparatory fires, struck the NVA flank. 
Moving slowly, with two tanks in support, Company 
M pushed through the Communist position, reliev- 
ing the pressure on Company I. The maneuver trap- 
ped a group of enemy soldiers between the two 
Marine units, and Company I assaulted and overran 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421910 
Artillerymen from the 2d Battalion, 12th Marines 
load their 105 mm howitzer at Con Thien for 
counterbattery fire against North Vietnamese Army 
units. In the background are some of the bunkers in 
which Marines took refuge during the frequent 
enemy artillery fire against the Marine combat base. 

the entrapped NVA force. The count of the enemy 
casualties at the end of the fight was 38 killed and 
one captured. As Bendell's units returned to their 
perimeters near Con Thien," they endured haras- 
sing fires from NVA mortar and artillery. Six 
Marines died and 47 suffered wounds in the day's ac- 
tion. 

Three days later, Company I of Lieutenant Col- 
onel Harry L. Alderman's 3d Battalion, 26th 
Marines* found the enemy again three miles south 
of Con Thien. The fight lasted for five hours and 
resembled the battle of the 4th, except this time 
Marine tanks reinforced the infantrymen. Fifty-one 
NVA died in this encounter; so did 14 Marines. 

On 10 September, Alderman's Marines engaged 
what seemed to be the entire 812th NVA Regiment. 
The fight began in the early evening four miles 
southwest of Con Thien. In this instance the patrol- 
ling Marines spoiled a major enemy attack in the 
making. The battalion's command chronology 
reflects the intensity of this four-hour battle: 



*3/26 participated in Operation Kingfisher from 7-11 
September. 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



133 



1615H— Co M and Q) K received estimated 60 rounds 
of l40mm rockets followed by a coordinated attack by 
NVA (reportedly) wearing USMC flak jackets and helmets. 

1630H — Co I and Co L came under attack by NVA 
wearing USMC equipment and supported by mortars. 

1637H — Co K and Co M were hit by 12 l40nim rockets 
followed by 12 more at 1643H. 

1653H — Co I and Co L came under an extremely heavy 
assault from the north and west sides of their perimeter by 
an estimated NVA battalion. Fixed-wing air, which was on 
station, began making strikes immediately, and napalm 
consistently fell 30 to 75 meters from the friendly lines. 
The flame tank and gun took direct hits from RPGs fired 
from approximately 73 meters. The flame tank was 
destroyed and burned the remainder of the night, and the 
gun tank was rendered useless and rolled into a draw. . . . 
The crews of both tanks withdrew into the perimeter. 

1700H-The tank supporting Co K fired on 100 NVA 
in front of their lines with unknown results. 

From 1705H to 1754H— Each company reported 
numerous sightings of NVA in various sized units 
maneuvering around both defensive perimeters. 

1825H — The [battalion] CP received heavy incoming 
mortar fire and the NVA appeared to be massing for an at- 
tack. 

1825H — M-1 [1st Platoon, Company M] was pinned 
down in a bomb crater 70 meters west of the CP. 

1900H — Co M pulled back towards the CP to con- 
solidate the lines and was forced to abandon a disabled 
tank. 

1905H — An emergency resupply was attempted to Co I 
and Co L and although suppressive fires were delivered, 
the enemy fire was too intense and the helicopter could 
not land. 

1903H — A flareship arrived on station. Co K and Co M 
had formed perimeter around the CP and were boxed in 
with well aimed artillery. 

2030H — The enemy ground attack ceased although 
60mm mortar [rounds] were still being received by Co I 
and Co L. 

The next morning the companies searched the 
battlefield for casualties and abandoned equipment, 
and evacauted all casualties by 1000. The Marines 
recovered a large quantity of enemy material, in- 
cluding cartridge belts, packs, ammunition, and 
weapons; 140 enemy bodies lay scattered throughout 
the area. The 3d Battalion's losses totaled 34 killed 
and 192 wounded. Alderman called it ". . . the 
hardest fighting [the battalion] encountered since 
arriving in Vietnam. "'^ 

Following this fight, the 3d Battalion, 26th 
Marines moved to near Phu Bai to refit. As its 
replacement in the DMZ area, the division pulled 
Lieutenant Colonel James W. Hammond, Jr.'s 2d 
Battalion, 4th Marines off an operation near Camp 
Evans and sent it north. Hammond later wrote: 

We stopped overnight at Cam Lo and then went north 



to take the place of [the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines] which 
had been monared [severely] in their position northwest of 
Con Thien. We then became the roving battalion outside 
Con Thien . . . the battalion moved every day but still was 
shelled as much, if not more than Con Thien. The dif- 
ference was that we had to dig new holes in every position 
... we were hit pretty hard during our month-plus along 
die DMZ." 

Both sides shed more blood around Con Thien 
before the month ended. At 0325 on the 13th, a 
North Vietnamese company attacked the north- 
northeast sector of the perimeter of the outpost. 
Even though artillery, mortars, and heavy machine 
guns supported the attacking force, the Communists 
failed to penetrate the wire. They gave up and 
withdrew after a heavy pounding from the Marines' 
supporting arms. 

Following the attack of the 13th, Colonel Richard 
B. Smith,* the new commanding officer of the 9th 
Marines, moved two battalions to a position behind 
Con Thien from which they could react if the enemy 
attacked in force. Lieutenant Colonel John J. 
Peeler's** 2d Battalion, 9th Marines occupied the 
area southeast of Con Thien while Lieutenant Colo- 
nel James W. Hammond, Jr.'s 2d Battalion, 4th 
Marines moved to the southwest of the hill."* At the 
same time, Colonel Smith ordered the 3d Battalion, 
9th Marines, now commanded by Major Gorton C. 
Cook, to move inside the main perimeter. The an- 
ticipated assault did not materialize; instead the 
NVA bombarded all three battalions with savage ar- 
tillery and mortar attacks for the next seven days. 

With the passing of the immediate threat to Con 
Thien, the Marines there went on the offensive. On 
21 September, Hammond's battalion started a 
search and destroy operation 1,800 meters east of 
Con Thien. The battalion front. Companies E and F, 
moved out on line. Movement was cautious but 
steady, but maintaining alinement proved difficult 
in terraced terrain broken up by hedgerows. The 
command group and Companies G and H had to 
stop, waiting for the rear elements to clear their 
previous position. 



*Colonel Smith, an experienced combat commander and 
veteran of two wars, assumed command of the 9th Marines from 
Colonel Jerue on 13 September, the day of the attack on the out- 
post. 

**Licutenant Colonel Peeler had the distinction of serving 
twice as the commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines 
during 1967, from 1 January to 4 July and 13 September - 28 Oc- 
tober. He assumed command in September after enemy mortar 
fragments severely wounded Lieutenant Colonel William D. Kent 
near Con Thien. 



134 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



I . 'if 



■'^0^.;x-W ^*r0^ 







3d MarDiv ComdC, October 1967 
Company K, 5d Battalion, 26th Marines moves off a 
thickly-wooded hill during a patrol near Camp 
Evans. The battalion moved to the base to refit after 
heavy fighting with the 812th NVA Regiment /bar 
miles southwest of Con Thien on 10 September. 

As the lead elements advanced, maintaining 
visual contact became impossible in the thick under- 
brush. At 0750, Company E encountered fire from 
snipers. Then, when the company pushed forward, 
it came under heavy automatic weapons fire from 
the front and left, which killed one Marine and 
wounded four. The tempo of the battle increased; 
the Communists opened up with mortars. The 
Marines, now close to the NVA force, heard shouted 
orders and directions for a mortar crew, and the two 
sides soon became involved in a deadly grenade 
duel.* The battalion could not call in artillery 
because of the close contact, and Company F was in 
no position to help. Company E slowly withdrew to a 
position which offered better cover and established a 
landing zone to evacuate casualties. 

Shortly after the beginning of the engagement. 
Lieutenant Colonel Hammond ordered Company G 
to envelop the left flank of the NVA position, but 
150 meters of open ground faced the assaulting 
troops. The company advanced to within 30 meters 
of the objective, but withdrew in the face of nearby 



NVA small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar 
fire. Meanwhile, Companies E and F linked up and 
covered Company G by fire as it disengaged. 

The battle turned into a stalemate. The battalion 
needed tanks, but after 96 hours of rain the ap- 
proaches to the area were impassable. At dusk the 
fighting died down and the Marines pulled back to 
the main battalion perimeter. The NVA force had 
killed 16 Marines and wounded 118; 15 of the 
bodies remained on the battlefield until 10 October 
when the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines went back and 
picked up its dead in a later operation in the same 
area." The battalion could not determine the total 
Communist casualties but reported at least 39 NVA 
soldiers killed.* Intelligence officers later identified 
the enemy force as part of the 90th NVA Regiment. 
After the action of the 21st, the enemy withdrew 
across the Ben Hai River. 

The persistent enemy attacks during September 
appeared to be a desperate bid for a military victory, 
with its attendant propaganda value, before the fall 




3d MarDiv ComdC, September 1967 
A CH-33 delivers supplies destined for the 3d Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines to the muddy landing zone of 
the Con Thien combat base in September 1967. 



*Lance Corporal Jcdh C. Barker received a posthumous Medal 
of Honor for his actions in this battle. See Appendix D for his cita- 
tion. 



♦Colonel Hammond remembered in 1981 that Major General 
Hochmuth said that G-2 put the number of enemy casualties at 
350. Colonel James W. Hammond, Jr., Comments on draft ms, 
18May81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



135 



monsoon hit. Failing in attacks from three different 
directions, the NVA resorted to a massive attack by 
fire against Con Thien. During the period 19-27 
September, more than 3,000 mortar, artillery, and 
rocket rounds blasted the position. 

The Americans retaliated by massing one of the 
greatest concentrations of firepower in support of a 
single division in the history of the Vietnam war. Ill 
MAF artillery units fired 12,577 rounds at known 
and suspected enemy positions in the region, while 
ships of the Seventh Fleet fired 6,148 rounds at the 
same area. Marine and Air Force fighter pilots flew 
more than 5,200 close air support sorties and B-52 
bombers of the Strategic Air Command dropped 
tons of ordnance on the enemy in and north of the 
DMZ. The Con Thien garrison applauded the 
results; North Vietnamese pressure on the outpost 
subsided as September drew to a close. 

Although enemy activity gradually diminished at 
Con Thien, defense of the base remained a continu- 
ing ordeal. Marine searching and patrolling activity 
discovered a multitude of bunker and trench com- 
plexes around the hill mass, most of which were 
about 1,500 meters from the main perimeter. The 
Marines destroyed the bunkers, but often during 
subsequent patrols they found them rebuilt again. 
During early October the Marines continued to find 
bunkers, but by then these were usually unoccupied. 

Experiences of the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines dur- 
ing October typify the trend of activity around Con 
Thien during the fall. On 4 October the battalion, 
still under the command of Lieutenant Colonel 
Hammond, conducted a sweep southwest of Con 
Thien in conjunction with Lieutenant Colonel Henry 
Englisch's BLT 2/3 from SLF Bravo. Leaving the line 
of departure at 0645, the battalion had found three 
NVA shelters by 0830. An hour later and 1,000 
meters further, the Marines found several more am- 
bush sites and 16 bunkers. Shortly after that, Com- 
pany H came upon 13 more bunkers while skirting 
the southwest side of the Con Thien slope. Similarly, 
Company G found abandoned mortar positions, 
loose 82mm mortar rounds, and powder-charge in- 
crements. Just before 1500, the unmistakable odor 
of decaying human flesh led the Marines to the par- 
tially covered graves of 20 North Vietnamese. 
Backtracking, Company G discovered fresh enemy 
footprints around the previously destroyed bunkers. 
Tension heightened. The three companies moved 
back to the perimeter west of Con Thien, but while 
pulling back Company G heard movement and call- 



ed in artillery to cover their return march. The 
Marines observed no NVA casualties, but had no 
doubt the Communists were still active. 

Several days later the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines 
relieved BLT 2/3 as the defense force for the recently 
built bridge north of Strongpoint C-2.* The con- 
struction of the bridge had permitted the reopening 
of the vital road to Con Thien which the heavy 
September rains washed out. The battalion defend- 
ed the bridge** because the 3d Marine Division was 
concerned that if the enemy destroyed it, they would 
cut the only supply line to Con Thien. '^ 

The defense of the bridge was no easy task for 
Lieutenant Colonel Hammond's battalion. Since its 
move north from Camp Evans on 11 September, the 
constant combat around Con Thien had worn the 
battalion down from a "foxhole strength" of 952 to 
about 462. The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines had great 
difficulty in manning all the defensive positions 
prepared by the departed full-strength BLT-2/3." 

The defensive position around the bridge was 
divided into quadrants by virtue of the road, which 
ran roughly north and south, and the stream, which 
ran east and west. Company G had the northwest 
quadrant; Company H was on the same side of the 
road but across the stream in the southwest 
quadrant. Company F was in the northeast; Com- 
pany E in the southeast. The battalion command 
group set up beside the stream in Company G's area 
and near the center of the position. 

At 0125 on 14 October, 25 artillery rounds, 
rockets, and 135-150 mortar rounds hit Company H. 
An ambush squad posted in front of the company 
reported an enemy force moving toward it, and im- 
mediately took the advancing enemy under fire. The 
Marine squad leader notified his company that he 
had three casualties and that the enemy seriously 
outnumbered his squad. The company commander, 
Captain Arthur P. Brill, Jr., ordered the squad to 
pull back and, at the same time, called for night 
defensive fires to block the avenues of approach to 
his position. The battalion requested flare ships to il- 
luminate the area. Using starlight scopes, sniper 
teams watched the enemy as they massed only 50 



*BLT 2/3 phased out of Operation Kingfisher to resume its 
duties with the Special Landing Force. 

**In 1981, Lieutenant General Metzger described the defense 
of this bridge as an ". . . illustration of how our forces were tied to 
defending terrain and not free to operate." Lieutenant General 
Louis Metzger, Gamments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) (Vietnam 
Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



136 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



meters in front of the company. The snipers and two 
tanks attached to the company opened fire, forcing 
the North Vietnamese to start their assault 
prematurely. The rest of the company held fire until 
the NVA troops reached a clearing 20 meters from 
the wire. Of the entire attacking unit, only two NVA 
soldiers reached the wire and Marines killed both as 
they tried to breach that obstacle. 

The enemy withdrew, leaving bodies behind, but 
they were far from finished. At 0230, enemy mortars 
shelled Company G. Direct hits by RPGs destroyed a 
machine gun emplacement and several backup posi- 
tions on the primary avenue of approach into the 
company position.* The NVA force attacked 
through this break, overran the company command 
post, and killed the company commander, Captain 
Jack W. Phillips, and his forward observer. Three 
platoon leaders, two of whom had just arrived in 
Vietnam that morning, also died. The battalion sent 
its S-3A, Captain James W. McCarter, Jr., to replace 
Phillips, but enemy fire killed him before he reached 
Company G.^^ During the confused, hand-to-hand 
combat some of the North Vietnamese fought their 
way within grenade range of the battalion command 
post in the center of the position. 

In the command post, although wounded by a 
grenade. Sergeant Paul H. Foster, a member of the 
fire support coordination center, continued to direct 
mortar and artillery fire upon the enemy. Another 
grenade landed among a group of six Marines. 
Sergeant Foster threw his flak jacket over the grenade 
and jumped on top of the jacket. The grenade blast 
mortally wounded him, but this action saved his 
fellow Marines.** Before the melee ended, the 
North Vietnamese killed or wounded the entire for- 
ward air control team.^° The enemy also killed the 
battalion medical chief, and wounded the fire sup- 
port coordinator, headquarters commandant, and 
battalion sergeant major. ^' 

Lieutenant Colonel Hammond moved what was 
left of his command group to a better location 
within Company H's position. He ordered Company 
F to move to Company G's right flank and 



*Lieutenant Colonel James E. Murphy commented in 1981 that 
the NVA force used tear gas in their attack. "Company G got the 
brunt of it and it lasted only for a few minutes but [the gas] great- 
ly added to the confusion." Lieutenant Colonel James E. Murphy, 
Comments on draft ms, 6Aug81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.) 

**Sergeant Foster subsequently received a posthumous Medal 
of Honor. See Appendix D for Sergeant Foster's citation. 



counterattack to push the NVA forces out of the 
perimeter. Illumination and automatic weapons fire 
from "Puff," the AC-47 requested at the beginning 
of the fight and which arrived about 0330, aided the 
counterattack. By 0430, the enemy began retreating 
out of the position, pursued by Company E. 

The next morning the battalion reconsolidated 
and evacuated casualties. Twenty-one dead, in- 
cluding five officers, and 23 wounded were the 
night's toll. The NVA lost at least 24 killed. That 
afternoon. Lieutenant General Cushman and Major 
General Hochmuth visited the bridge site. They 
granted a request from Lieutenant Colonel Ham- 
mond that the new bridge be named Bastard's 
Bridge* to honor the 2 1 Marines of the 2d Battalion 
who gave their lives in its defense. At 1400, Ham- 
mond's battalion turned over the bridge to Lieute- 
nant Colonel Needham's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines 
and then moved to Dong Ha where it assumed the 
mission of regimental reserve after 42 days of close 
combat. ^^ 

The last major action of Kingfisher took place dur- 
ing a 9th Marines operation on 25-28 October. By 
this time Hammond's battalion (minus Company G 
which was attached to the 3d Battalion, 4th 
Marines), had moved to Cam Lo to take part in the 
operation. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines was at Con 
Thien and Needham's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines was 
at C-2 Bridge. ^^ The regimental frag order directed 
Hammond's Marines to sweep north on the west side 
of Route 561 while the other two battalions provided 
blocking forces. 

The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines began its sweep at 
0600 on the 25th. Lieutenant Colonel Hammond 
planned to move his understrength battalion all day 
to reach the objective before dark. There was no 
enemy contact but heavy brush slowed the move. As 
darkness approached, the battalion was still about 
1,000 meters from the objective. Hammond decided 
to halt the battalion and request additional am- 
munition before darkness. 

Hammond's decision was prudent, given the 
nature of the enemy in the DMZ region and the re- 



*The nickname "Magnificent Bastards" has been claimed by the 
2d Battalion, 4th Marines for many years. Tradition traces the 
nickname to World War II; however, the Marine Corps Historical 
Center has no evidence to substantiate the claim. It appears likely 
that the battalion borrowed the phrase from the book. The 
Magnificent Bastards by Lucy Herndon Crockett (New York: 
1933) which is a fictionalized account of Marines in the South 
Pacific in World War II. 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



137 



cent combat losses that reduced his entire battalion 
to just over 400 men. Additional ammunition could 
partially compensate for the loss of firepower 
resulting from personnel shortages and the absence 
of Company G. He controlled, at the time, a "bat- 
talion" only a little larger than a standard reinforced 
rifle company. The resupply helicopters would give 
away the battalion's location, of course, but he took 
the risk that his command could receive its addi- 
tional ammunition and move on to the objective 
before the enemy responded. 

Helicopters were in short supply at this time, 
following the grounding of all CH-46s after a series 
of accidents. Ill MAF by necessity reserved the 
available helicopters for meeting emergency requests 
from units in the field. Hammond ordered an 
"emergency resupply" of ammunition. 

Lieutenant Colonel Hammond took a calculated 
risk and lost. The resupply helicopters did not bring 
everything he ordered but, worse, also delivered 
significant quantities and types of ammunition that 
the battalion had not ordered, including three 
pallets of tactical wire. There was more material than 
the battalion could use or move. Hammond's 
Marines would have to spend the night in place and 
try to get the excess ammunition flown out the next 
morning. Unfortunately, the helicopters had reveal- 
ed the Marines' position to the enemy. 

The North Vietnamese hit the battalion's 
perimeter about 2330 with 10 rocket rounds.* The 
battalion executive officer. Major John J. Lawen- 
dowski, died and Lieutenant Colonel Hammond 
and two others required evacuation for wounds. 
Lieutenant Colonel Frankie E. Allgood, the newly 
promoted executive officer of HMM-363, landed his 
UH-34D at the battalion command post and flew 
the casualties to Dong Ha. Captain Arthur P. Brill, 
Jr., who had moved up the previous day from com- 
manding Company H to be the battalion operations 
officer, took command of the battalion. 

Upon learning that Hammond and Lawendowski 
were casualties. Colonel Richard B. Smith, comman- 
ding the 9th Marines, decided to send an officer to 
take temporary command of the 2d Battalion, 4th 
Marines. The obvious choice was right at hand. 
Lieutenant Colonel John C. Studt, the regimental 
operations officer, knew the details of the current 



*The official reports describe these as rockets, however, Colonel 
Hammond believes they were actually artillery rounds. Colonel 
James W. Hammond, Jr., Comments on draft ms, 18May81 
(Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



Operation; he had drafted the regimental frag order 
implementing the division's directive for the opera- 
tion. ^^ Colonel Smith sent Studt to the Dong Ha air- 
field to catch a helicopter to the 2d Battalion. 

Lieutenant Colonel Studt reached the airfield 
shortly after medical personnel removed the 2d Bat- 
talion's casualties from Lieutenant Colonel Allgood's 
helicopter. Studt explained his mission and the two 
officers discussed the chances of succeeding in 
reaching the 2d Battalion safely. Having had great 
difficulty in evacuating the four casualties, Allgood 
advised Studt that he wasn't sure he could make it 
into the battalion's position. He also pointed out 
that fog was increasing throughout the whole area. 
Both officers decided, however, that the situation re- 
quired that the flight be attempted. Studt climbed 
into the passenger compartment of the helicopter, 
which, he noted, still had fresh blood on the floor. ^' 
Allgood lifted off from the airfield and managed to 
land the UH-34D inside the battalion perimeter 
around 0300 on the 26th. 

Studt immediately climbed into Captain Brill's 
foxhole to get an appraisal of the 2d Battalion's 
situation. The first thing that struck Studt were the 
gaps in the battalion staff. Each time Studt asked 
about a key staff position. Brill reported that the 
respective officer was either a casualty in some 
hospital or a new officer was filling the position. ^"^ 
The battalion had been ground down during a 
month and a half of heavy fighting. 

Company G, released back to the 2d Battalion's 
control, arrived at the defensive perimeter the 
following morning. The additional strength was 
welcome since Lieutenant Colonel Studt had learned 
he would have to leave one company behind to 
guard the pile of excess ammunition. Due to other 
commitments, the regiment reported, there were no 
helicopters available to move it. "I could not help 
but note," wrote Studt, "that this short-sighted 
policy resulted in [III MAF] providing a number of 
helicopters for emergency medevacs, which might 
not have been necessary had they been a little more 
flexible and appreciative of the tactical situation on 
this operation."^' 

Leaving Company F to guard the ammunition, 
the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines moved toward its ob- 
jective and occupied it by 1300. Shortly afterward, 
enemy 60mm mortars hit the battalion as it organiz- 
ed its defenses. One hour later, the NVA struck with 
a heavy mortar barrage, followed by small arms fire 
from the west and northwest. The Marines began 



138 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



taking casualties and requested a helicopter 
medevac. 

In an effort to pick up some of the casualties, Cap- 
tain Ronald D. Bennett of HMM-363 attempted to 
land his UH-34D within the 2d Battalion's 
perimeter. Those on the ground waved him off 
because of intense enemy fire. As Captain Bennett 
pulled away, enemy fire hit the rear of the 
helicopter, separating the tail pylon. The aircraft 
crashed, rolled and began burning about 150 meters 
outside the Marine lines. Bennett and a gunner. 
Corporal Edward Clem, died in the crash. Second 
Lieutenant Vernon J. Sharpless and Lance Corporal 
Howard J. Cones, both seriously injured, managed 
to crawl from the burning wreckage. 

A second helicopter from HMM-363, piloted by 
Captain Frank T. Grassi, tried to land to pick up the 
survivors but could not. Enemy fire hit Grassi in the 
leg and arm, damaged the helicopter, and slightly 
wounded one of the gunners and a Navy hospital 
corpsman. The aircraft limped away as far as Strong 
Point C-2 where it made a forced landing. 

Captain James E. Murphy, the 2d Battalion, 4th 
Marines' air liaison officer, who had been calling in 
air strikes in front of Company E, saw Bennett's 
helicopter go down. With his radio still on his back, 
Murphy crawled out to the downed helicopter, mov- 
ing past NVA soldiers in his path. He found the two 
survivors near the burning helicopter. The three 
Marines were surrounded and there was no way Mur- 
phy could get them back to Marine lines. Fortunate- 
ly, the enemy soldiers in the area either did not 
know the three men were there or simply did not 
care. Captain Murphy could hear NVA soldiers near- 
by and see some movement, however, and called in 
air strikes within 50 meters of the crashed helicopter 
with the aid of an airborne observer in an 0-lC air- 
craft overhead. The latter eventually managed to 
direct a Marine A-4 attack aircraft to deliver a line of 
smoke so that a UH-1 helicopter could land and 
rescue the three Marines.^* 

The rescue helicopter was a UH-lC from the U.S. 
Army's 190th Helicopter Assault Company whose 
pilot volunteered to make the pickup. Enemy fire hit 
the aircraft twice during the rescue and the pilot suf- 
fered a minor wound in the arm. The UH-lC also 
managed to reach Strong Point C-2 where it, too, 
made a forced landing. 

Lieutenant Colonel Studt's observation during his 
short period of command convinced him of the need 
for reinforcements. At his request, the 9th Marines 



ordered the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines at C-2 Bridge 
to send two companies and a small command group 
to the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines' position. ^^ 

Company F still occupied its exposed position and 
Studt decided to move it within the battalion 
perimeter. He directed the company to have its at- 
tached engineers blow up the excess ammunition, 
but they were unable to do so.* After several hours 
of fruitless attempts by the engineers, Studt told the 
company to leave the ammunition and join the rest 
of the battalion. The battalion had direct observa- 
tion of the ammunition pile and would cover it by 
fire. 50 

Company F reached the perimeter near dusk. The 
two companies from the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines ar- 
rived at about the same time." With these rein- 
forcements, the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines was ready 
for any NVA attacks that evening. Studt recounted 
the night's subsequent events: 

From before dusk . . . until almost 0200 in the morning, 
we were under almost continuous attacks by both direct 
and indirect fire, and our perimeter was hit again and 
again by ground attacks. . . . The wounded were being ac- 
cumulated in the vicinity of my CP, which consisted of 
foxholes, and their suffering was a cause of anguish. After 
several attempts to medevac them by helicopter were 
aboned due to intense enemy fire, we came up with the 
plan that on signal every man on the perimeter would 
open fire on known or suspected enemy positions ... for a 
few minutes with an intense volume of fire. During this 
brief period, a volunteer pilot . . . succeeded in zipping in- 
to the zone and removing our emergency medevacs. The 
[trick] . . . probably would not have worked again. '^ 

The ground attacks ceased around 0200 in the 
morning of the 27th, but the Marines heard enemy 
movement for the rest of the night as the North 
Vietnamese removed their dead and wounded. 
Dawn revealed 19 enemy bodies within or in sight of 
the Marine positions. Lieutenant Colonel Studt 
decided not to send anyone to sweep the area since 
any movement still drew enemy artillery and mortar 
fire." 

The enemy completed its departure by dawn. The 
Marines soon did likewise; on orders from the 9th 
Marines, the battalion made a tactical withdrawal. 
Still harrassed by enemy rocket and mortar fire and 
carrying the remainder of its dead and wounded, the 
2d Battalion, 4th Marines moved by echelon to 



*The reason for the failure to detonate the ammunition is not 
clear from the records. Studt himself wrote in 1981 that he never 
knew the reason. Col John C. Studt, Comments on draft ms, 
9Jul81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



139 



Strong Point C-2 and then to Cam Lo.''' During the 
period 25-27 October, eight 2d Battalion Marines 
died and 43 suffered wounds giving the battahon an 
effective strength of around 300 Marines. Known 
NVA casualties were the 19 bodies counted by the 
battalion on 27 October. 

The battalion moved back to Dong Ha on the 
28th and resumed its role as the regimental reserve. 
Lieutenant Colonel William Wiese took command 
of the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines and Lieutenant Col- 
onel Studt returned to his duties at the 9th Marines' 
command post.* That day a message from Lieu- 
tenant General Cushman arrived, the last line of 
which read "2/4 has met and beaten the best the 
enemy had to offer. Well done."'' 

Kingfisher listed 1,117 enemy killed and five cap- 
tured; Marine casualties totaled 340 killed and 1,461 
wounded. General Westmoreland described the 
operation as a "crushing defeat" of the enemy. 

The Con Thien area remained a grim place. The 
constant danger of artillery, rocket, and mortar fire, 
and massed infantry assaults, and the depressing 
drizzle and mud from which there was no escape, 
combined to make it miserable for the Marines 
there. Neuropsychiatric or "shell shock" casualties, 
relatively unheard of elsewhere in South Vietnam, 
were not unusual. Duty on and around the drab hill 
mass was referred to by all Marines as their "Turn in 
the Barrel," or "the Meatgrinder."'^ 

Medina I Bastion Hill/Lam Son 138 

On 5 October, in conjunction with the arrival of a 
fourth U.S. Army brigade in southern I Corps, Col- 
onel Herbert E. Ing, Jr.'s 1st Marines, consisting of 
two battalions, came under the operational control 
of the 3d Marine Division and moved north from the 
Da Nang TAOR to the southern part of Quang Tri 
Province. On the 11th, the regiment, reinforced by 
SLF Alpha, started Operation Medina in the rugged 
hills of the Hai Lang National Forest.** The opera- 
tion was part of III MAF's comprehensive program to 



*Studt had hoped to retain command but Colonel Smith was 
more interested in keeping him as the regimental operations of- 
ficer. "Unfortunately," wrote Smith, "I extolled [Studt's] virtues 
so much to General Tompkins that he was grabbed later to take 
over a battalion at Khe Sanh where he distinguished himself." 
Colonel Richard B. Smith, Comments on draft ms, 2lMay81 
(Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

**SLF Alpha's (BLT 1/3) move to its Medina blocking positions 
had the code-name Operation Bastion Hill. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) Ai89393 
Marines and journalists wait on 2 October in the 
safety of a trench beside Con Thien s landing zone 
until the arrival and touchdown of the helicopter 
that will take them from the base back to Dong Ha. 

destroy enemy base areas previously left alone 
because of lack of forces. The Hai Lang forest area 
south of Quang Tri was the enemy's Base Area 101, 
the support area for the 5 th and 6th NVA 
Regiments. Northeast of the Medina AO, two 
ARVN airborne battalions conducted Operation 
Lam Son 138. 

Medina started as Lieutenant Colonel Albert F. 
Belbusti's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and Lieutenant 
Colonel Archie Van Winkle's 2d Battalion, 1st 
Marines made a helicopter assault landing in the 
forest. After landing they cleared the area around LZ 
Dove and then swept in a northeasterly direction 
while BLT 1/3 blocked to the east. At 0330 on the 
11th, Company C of BLT 1/3 came under mortar 
and small arms fire, followed by a ground assault. 
The company drove off the attackers and the 
fighting subsided. 

The next day both of the 1st Marines' battalions 
continued searching to the southwest, while BLT 1 / 3 
remained in its blocking positions. At 1315, Com- 
pany C, 1st Marines was moving through thick 
jungle when the point element engaged 10 NVA 
soldiers. The exchange of fire wounded several 
Marines. Company C pulled back to a small clearing 



140 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



141 




#"■ 



-v. 



IlV'« 






^\ 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421900 
Operation Medina begins early on 11 October as two battalions of the 1st Marines make 
a helicopter assault into Landing Zone Dove in a III MAF drive to clear enemy base areas 
in the thick Hai Lang forest, located approximately 12 miles south of Quang Tri City. 

and established a perimeter before calling in 
helicopters to pick up wounded. Just after the evac- 
uation was completed, three NVA companies attack- 
ed Company C from two sides. The firefight con- 
tinued as darkness fell; hand grenades figured heavi- 
ly in the exchange. The battle surged back and forth 
across the small clearing. At the height of the strug- 
gle a grenade landed in the company command 
post. Corporal William T. Perkins, Jr., a combat 
photographer attached to the company, yelled, 
"Grenade!" and threw himself on the deadly missile. 
The explosion killed him.* 

Lieutenant Colonel Belbusti reinforced Company 
C with Company D and the two companies drove off 
the attacking NVA force. Dawn on the 13th revealed 
40 enemy dead around the Marines' position. The 
enemy attack had killed eight Marines and wounded 
39. 

After these two fights, the enemy avoided further 
contact; Medina turned into a search for small 
groups of North Vietnamese in the nearly im- 
penetrable forests. The 1st Marines did find a 
number of base camps, but the enemy had 
evacuated the sites. The Marines captured more than 




3d MarDiv ComdC, October 1967 
An air observer with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines 
directs an air strike early in Operation Medina on 
enemy positions located on an adjacent ridgeline. 



*CorporaI Perkins received a posthumous Medal of Honor, 
becoming the first Marine combat photographer to receive the na- 
tion's highest award. See Appendix D for Corporal Perkins' cita- 
tion. 



142 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



four tons of rice, 16 weapons, and a quantity of 
small arms ammunition. 

The enemy's efforts to elude the sweeping Marine 
units resulted in the largest action of the companion 
Operation Lam Son 138. On the morning of 20 Oc- 
tober, the 4l6th NVA Battalion, a subordinate unit 
of the 5th NVA Regiment collided with one of the 
ARVN airborne companies involved in Operation 
Lam Son 138. The airborne company held and, after 
reinforcement, killed 197 North Vietnamese in the 
day-long battle. 

Operation Medina ended on the 20th. The SLF 
battalion transferred to Colonel William L. Dick's 
4th Marines, which was conducting Operation Fre- 
mont to the south. The 1st Marines stayed in the 
former Medina area and started Operation Osceola 
the same day. Osceola was an unspectacular, but 
systematic, search for enemy forces in the Hai Lang 
forest. 

Adjustments Within the 5 d Marine Division 

A new series of operations began in November. 
Only Osceola continued from October. The 3d 





3d MarDiv ComdC, October 1967 
A Marine with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines places 
explosives before blowing a helicopter landing zone 
in the Hai Lang forest during Operation Medina. 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A193856 
An LVTP-3 carries members of the 1st Amphibian 
Tractor Battalion, operating as infantrymen, on a 
sweep of the shoreline north of the Cua Viet River in 
September. The battalion continued these patrols in 
November and December in Operation Napoleon. 

Marine Division split the Kingfisher TAOR in two: 
Kentucky, embracing the region including Gio 
Linh, Con Thien, Cam Lo, and Dong Ha came 
under the control of Colonel Richard B. Smith's 9th 
Marines; and Lancaster, to the west, covered Camp 
Carroll, the Rockpile, and Ca Lu under Colonel 
Joseph E. LoPrete's 3d Marines. The division re- 
named Operation Ardmore at Khe Sanh to Scotland 
and continued it as a one- battalion operation under 
the control of Colonel David E. Lownds' 26th 
Marines. On the coast, the 1st Amphibian Tractor 
Battalion conducted Operation Napoleon north of 
the Cua Viet River. In Thua Thien Province, Colonel 
William L. Dick's 4th Marines continued to cover ap- 
proaches to Hue City west of Route 1 as Operation 
Neosho replaced Fremont. The 3d Marine Division 
had tactical responsibility for all territory west of 
Highway 1 in the northern two provinces of Quang 
Tri and Thua Thien, while the 1st ARVN Division 
was responsible for all terrain east of the road except 
for the Napoleon operational area north of the Cua 
Viet River. 

Artillery support for all of these operations came 
from Colonel Edwin S. Schick, Jr.'s 12th Marines. 
Composed of five Marine artillery battalions, three 
Army artillery battalions, and two Marine separate 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



143 



batteries, it was the largest artillery regiment in the 
history of the Marine Corps. The reinforced regi- 
ment's 220 weapons'' were located throughout the 
division TAOR. Each infantry regiment could call 
upon a direct support battalion of 105mm 
howitzers. In addition, the artillery regiment's 
medium 135mm howitzers and guns, and heavy 
8-inch howitzers and 175mm guns, provided rein- 
forcing or general support fires. 

While the new operations were beginning, the 
division headquarters at Phu Bai prepared for a visit 
from Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey on 1 
November. After the stop at the division command 
post, the Vice President flew over the division's area 
of operations. Upon his return to Da Nang, he 
presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the 3d 
Marine Division for "extraordinary heroism and 
outstanding performance of duty in action against 
North Vietnamese and insurgent Communist forces 
in the Republic of Vietnam from 8 March 1965 to 15 
September 1967." 

After pinning the streamer on the division colors, 
the Vice President warmly congratulated the division 
commander. Major General Hochmuth. This was 
the last official ceremony that the general attended. 



Major General Hochmuth died on 14 November 
when his UH-lE exploded and crashed five miles 
northwest of Hue. 

Colonel William L. Dick, commanding the 4th 
Marines at Phu Bai, learned of the crash around 1400 
on 14 November. Since he had a helicopter sitting 
on a pad at his headquarters, Dick, accompanied by 
his operations officer. Major James D. Beans, and 
the regimental sergeant major, quickly reached the 
crash scene. Colonel Dick described the rescue at- 
tempt: 

After several passes, I spotted the Huey upside down in 
a rice paddy filled to the brim by the heavy rains which 
had been falling for several weeks. ... I directed the 
helicopter pilot to land on the paddy dike nearest the crash 
site from where the three of us walked through about 200 
yards of paddy water until we reached the wreckage. There 
were flames on the water's surface around the aircraft. 
While the sergeant major attempted to extinguish these. 
Major Beans and I commenced diving beneath the surface, 
groping through the water for possible survivors. We had 
no idea just how long it had been since the crash had oc- 
curred. This was a difficult task, as you can imagine, since 
the water was full of silt, not to mention leeches, and im- 
possible to see through. The three of us were joined by a 
Vietnamese farmer who refused to identify himself and 
could be distinguished only by a small gold crucifix around 



A machine gun team from Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines pauses during its 
movement in November in Operation Lancaster in the 9th Marines' portion of the 
former Operation Kingfisher area. The team wears its ammunition bandolier-style. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, November 1967 








^ 



144 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Depanmcnt of Defense Photo (USMC) A190235 
MaJGen Bruno A. Hochmuth, the commanding general of the 3d Marine Division, 
wearing a rainsuit as protection from the monsoon, sits in a UH-lE helicopter prior to a 
routine inspection of the divisional area on 7 November, one week prior to his death. 



his neck. The four of us, after getting rid of the aviation 
fuel flames, repeatedly went below the surface into the 
helicopter cabin and by touch, finally found the bodies, 
one by one, of the six who had died in the crash. The 
helicopter had turned upside down just before impact 
which made the situation even more difficult. The last 
body recovered was General Hochmuth. I found him in 
the rear seat of the helicopter, the spot where he usually 
traveled when visiting the various command posts.'* 

Major General Rathvon McC. Tompkins, a 
veteran of more than 32 years' Marine service and 
holder of the Navy Cross as a battalion commander 
at Saipan, received immediate orders as General 
Hochmuth's replacement. Brigadier General Louis 
Metzger, the assistant division commander, assumed 
command until General Tompkins arrived from the 
United States on 28 November. 

One of General Tompkins' first steps after his ar- 
rival was to discuss the overall situation with his divi- 
sion operations officer, Colonel James R. Stockman, 
who had commanded an 81mm mortar platoon 
under Tompkins on Saipan. "Tell me," said Tom- 
pkins, "about the operational folklore in the divi- 
sion's area of operations." Stockman replied with, 
among other things, descriptions of the enemy and 
the terrain and the frustrations of fighting under the 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189947 
MajGen Rathvon McC. Tompkins inspects an honor 
guard on 28 November during the ceremony at Da 
Nang in which he assumed command of the id 
Marine Division after MajGen Hochmuth's death. 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



143 



restrictions imposed by MACV and Washington. 
Stockman recalled that Tompkins disliked the 
system which considered infantry battalions as inter- 
changeable parts to be shifted from one regimental 
headquarters to another, depending upon the tac- 
tical situation. Tompkins accepted it, however, as 
"temporary operational folklore," which he would 
have to live with. "He faced," wrote Stockman, "a 
worsening operational situation in the late part of 
1967 with as much fortitude and optimism as 
humanly possible. "'' 

During November and December, the most 
significant activity in the 3d Marine Division's zone 
of action was small unit fighting near the strong- 
point obstacle system around Con Thien and Gio 
Linh. In November, platoon and company-size NVA 
units operated from well camouflaged bunkers in 
the area, trying to ambush Marine patrols and to 
hinder the system's construction. The Marines 
countered with attacks that drove the NVA units out 
of their positions on four different occasions during 
November, killing 65 Communists. In addition. 
Marine patrols found and destroyed three extensive 




Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A189948 
Company G, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines engages an 
NVA unit on 3 December during the portion of 
Operation Kentucky conducted to prevent enemy 
interference with the construction of Strongpoint 
A-3 of the barrier system south of the DMZ. The 3d 
Marine Division originally planned to call this pro- 
tective effort Operation Newton but decided on 28 
November to consider it as simply part of Kentucky. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189997 
A patrol from Company F, 9th Marines, part of the 
screening effort during the construction of Strong- 
point A-3, moves out carefully after finding fresh 
enemy footprints and bunkers on 22 December. 

bunker systems. On 29 November, three Marine bat- 
talions and two ARVN battalions began clearing 
operations within the Kentucky TAOR between Con 
Thien and Gio Linh, the planned site of Strong 
Point A-3 of the proposed barrier plan, or 
"McNamara wall." The Marine units swept south of 
Con Thien eastward to Site A-3, while the ARVN 
units moved from near Gio Linh westward to clear a 
road to the strong point location. The following day, 
Lieutenant Colonel William M. Cryan's 2d Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines found a North Vietnamese com- 
pany in bunkers two and one-half miles northeast of 
Con Thien. The battalion maneuvered to envelop 
the enemy and overran the position by 1800, killing 
41 defenders. Marine casualties totaled 15 killed and 
53 wounded requiring evacuation. 

Although the Marine and ARVN units continued 
screening operations north of A-3 during December, 
the largest engagement during the month took place 
southeast of Gio Linh in the Napoleon area of opera- 
tion. Lieutenant Colonel Edward R. Toner's 1st Am- 
phibian Tractor Battalion and Company F, 2d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines were protecting the movement of 
building materials to Strongpoint C-4 on the coast, 
two kilometers north of the Cua Viet River. Com- 
pany F, under the operational control of the tractor 
battalion, occupied Strongpoint C-4. Platoon and 



146 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



squad patrols routinely operated 2,000 meters north 
of C-4 as forward security for both the strongpoint 
and the battalion's position at Cua Viet port facility. 

Early in the afternoon of the 10th, two squads 
patrolled near the fishing village of Ha Loi Tay. 
Their operational area was a sea of sand dunes, inter- 
rupted by a strip of scrub pine growth and 
hedgerows dotting the coastline. As they approached 
a break in the coastal tree line south of the village, 
sniper fire surprised them. The Marines fired back, 
killing eight North Vietnamese. The enemy fire kill- 
ed one Marine and wounded three in this brief en- 
counter. 

As the Marines checked the area, they discovered 
20-25 NVA soldiers, some wearing American 
helmets and flak jackets. The Marines opened fire 
and called for reinforcements. The company com- 
mander. First Lieutenant Michael H. Gavlick, 
radioed the situation to the battalion CP, and then 
took a platoon and the third squad of the engaged 
platoon forward to join the battle. 

Contact continued throughout the afternoon. 
Before dark, Lieutenant Colonel Toner ordered two 
provisional rifle platoons from his Company B and 
two LVTH-6s to go to the scene of contact to assist. 
As darkness settled, Lieutenant Gavlick drew his 
composite force into a tight perimeter. At 0630 on 
the 11th, the composite unit moved out under a 
light drizzle toward the area of the previous day's ac- 
tion. At 0800, lead elements spotted 40 of the 
enemy trying to move south across the break in the 
tree line. The Marines observed 1 1 NVA soldiers dig- 
ging a mortar position and another 15 moving 
behind a sand dune to the north. While the Marines 
took these enemy under fire with artillery and the 
LVTH-6s, Lieutenant Colonel Toner moved his 
Company A, organized as an infantry unit, and his 
command group to Strong Point C-4. At the same 
time, the U.S. advisor with the ARVN battalion oc- 
cupying Strong Point A-1, 2,500 meters across the 
sand dunes west of the contact, asked if his battalion 
could help. Toner asked the ARVN battalion to 
move a unit into a blocking position southwest of 
the action. The NVA force had moved around to the 
west of the Marines and were now attacking from the 
south. The advisor informed Toner that an ARVN 
company would move to the desired blocking posi- 
tion. Fifteen of the enemy had already attacked the 
Marines and, although driven off, had fired 10 RPG 
antitank rounds. One of these rounds hit a LVTH-6 
on the bow, but the round glanced off without 



damaging the tractor. The LVTH-6 destroyed the 
antitank gunners' position with direct 105mm 
howitzer fire. 

The number of enemy troops involved in the bat- 
tle increased. A 30-minute firefight began; Gavlick's 
composite company took heavy small arms fire from 
three sides, then the Communists began hitting the 
Marines with mortars. Throughout the action, the 
two LVTH-6s maneuvered back and forth to engage 
the enemy, often firing at ranges between 50 to 150 
meters. The remaining four LVTH-6s at Cua Viet 
and a detachment of 4.2-inch mortars at C-4 added 
their fire to the battle. 

As the Marines tightened their perimeter, the 
NVA made a second assault. Fifty-five of the enemy 
attacked from the north, 12 more came in from the 
northeast, and 20 others from the south. Again, 
mortar fire supported their assault. The Marines 
responded with artillery, and used naval gunfire to 
hold back enemy reinforcements. The Communist 
assault failed, but individual soldiers continued to 
pop up around the perimeter. One audacious NVA 
mortar crew, protected by infantry, went into action 
on an exposed sand dune only 90 meters from the 
Marine perimeter. They fired six rounds before 
machine guns and direct fire from one of the 
LVTH-6S killed them. 




•«^/*^^i«v 



3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 
PFC P. N. Bunton carries a small Christmas tree on 
his pack while on Operation Kentucky with Com- 
pany C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in December. 



FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 



147 



By this time, the ARVN company had crossed the 
sand dunes and was moving into its blocking posi- 
tion. As it entered the position, the company spot- 
ted a mortar crew that had been giving the Marines 
trouble from the southwest. After a brief fire fight 
the enemy mortar crew ran away to the north, leav- 
ing two bodies behind. After this, the fighting 
dwindled to sniper fire. 

Lieutenant Colonel Toner ordered Company A to 
sweep the area north of C-4 and clear it of any re- 
maining NVA soldiers. At the same time, he 
ordered Lieutenant Gavlick to withdraw his com- 
posite company to C-4. Artillery and naval gunfire 
continued to shell the tree line north of the battle 
position. As Lieutenant Gavlick's force moved south, 
they found a supply dump bordered by communica- 
tions wire strung waist high from trees as a guide. 
The site contained many full storage bins, dug into 
the sand dunes next to the trail. Live vegetation 



camouflaged their trap-door entrances. The Marines 
destroyed the bins as they discovered them, after 
which they returned to Stongpoint C-4. The day- 
long battle resulted in 54 enemy known killed, 
while the composite Marine unit suffered 20 wound- 
ed. 

As the year came to a close, all of the operations 
which had started in November remained in pro- 
gress. Although contact was light, there were signs of 
renewed enemy activity in the Scotland TAOR. In- 
telligence officers reported at least two NVA divi- 
sions, the 323 C and 304th, moving into the Khe 
Sanh region. Because of these reports, General Tom- 
pkins strengthened Khe Sanh with an additional 
battalion during December and prepared to deploy 
more reinforcements on short notice. The year 1967 
ended as it had begun; a major invasion of northern 
Quang Tri Province appeared to be the enemy's next 
move. 



PARTY 
SPECIAL EFFORTS 



CHAPTER 11 

The Special Landing Force 

Doctrine Versus Expedient — Forming a Second SLF— Continuing Operations Throughout the Year 



Doctrine Versus Expedient 

In 1967 the Seventh Fleet's Special Landing Force 
(SLF) was the Pacific Command's strategic reserve for 
all of Southeast Asia, as well as Vietnam. The SLF 
contained a Marine command element of approx- 
imately the same organization as an infantry 
regimental staff; a Marine battalion landing team, 
consisting of a Marine infantry battalion reinforced 
by artillery, a small logistics support unit, and other 
elements to support independent operation; and a 
Marine helicopter squadron. The Marine SLF com- 
mander reported directly to the Navy amphibious 
commander. Although under the overall operational 
control of the Seventh Fleet, the SLF was readily 
available for MACV use in Vietnam. 

SLF operations in 1967 concentrated in I Corps. 
The reasons for this change in practice were not en- 
tirely the result of a national level strategy for the 
conduct of the war. Without considering the Com- 
munists' strategy, there were sufficient conflicting 
interests within the many command levels of the 
U.S. Armed Forces to cause diverse opinions of the 
most appropriate use of this unique striking force. 

Opinions were divided even within the Marine 
Corps. In III MAF, Marine division and wing com- 
manders wanted to control their own battalions and 
squadrons which were siphoned off to man the SLF. 
Continuing reappraisals of required troop strength 
to "do the job" in I Corps amplified this desire. 
MACV and III MAF did not want troops floating off 
the coast when they could be "in country" and, most 
probably, in contact. However, the personnel in the 
SLF did not count against the "in-country" authoriz- 
ed troop strength ceilings and, as one operations of- 
ficer noted, the SLF at least served as a source of 
emergency reinforcements following commitment of 
a division's reserve.' Other Marine commanders, 
primarily those outside Vietnam, such as Brigaider 
General Louis Metzger of the 9th Marine Am- 
phibious Brigade on Okinawa, advocated a close 
adherence to approved amphibious doctrine. 



General Metzger later wrote, "As Commanding 
General, 9th MAB, and at the direction of CG, 
FMFPac, Lieutenant General Krulak, I was precise in 
following the established amphibious operational 
command relationships and logistic support. It was a 
constant struggle, particularly with the Wing and 
Division commanders."^ 

Compounding the problem was the Seventh 
Fleet's position, reinforced by approved doctrine, 
that the Navy-Marine amphibious capability provid- 
ed by the Amphibious Ready Group /Special Lan- 
ding Force organization added great flexibility to the 
allied strategic options, as well as the Vietnamese 
tactical situation. U.S. Air Force considerations 
entered into the controversy because of air space con- 
trol requirements. A final, but certainly not over- 
riding, consideration in the III MAF stance was the 
Marine Corps' situation in I Corps. If additional 
MACV, in this case U.S. Army, troops could be 
released to go into lower I Corps, the 1st Marine 
Division would be able to move north to cover Da 
Nang, thereby allowing the 3d Marine Division to 
concentrate in northern I Corps. This would permit 
the 1st and 2d ARVN Divisions to devote their 
energies to pacification. These moves, however, 
could occur only if the Marine divisions could ac- 
complish their mission without the SLF battalion. In 
January of 1967, all of the ramifications of this com- 
plex situation were not in evidence, but two basic 
questions were starting to form. What Marine for- 
mations would provide the SLF with its landing 
forces and where should it be used? 

The Amphibious Rpady Group (ARG) gained an 
additional landing ship, tank (LST) in January 1967, 
bringing the ARG ship total to five. The other ships 
in the group were: an amphibious assault ship 
(LPH), a dock landing ship (LSD), an attack 
transport (APA), and an amphibious transport dock 
(LPD). 

Early in 1967, the Joint Chiefs of Staff made two 
significant decisions. They authorized the formation 



150 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



151 



of a second SLF and directed CinCPac to commit 
both SLFs to extended operations in Vietnam. 
Neither of these decisions were restrictive as far as 
the location of SLF landings, but the provision of the 
required logistic support provided a major reason 
why SLF operations became a purely I Corps func- 
tion. 

Under the heading of "Logistic Support for the 
Special Landing Force" in April, FMFPac's report of 
Marine operations in Vietnam revealed a major 
reason for concentrating SLF operations in I Corps; 
the support structure dictated operational location. 
The report stated: 

With the decision by the Joint Chiefs of Staff ... to 
commit the SLFs to extended operations in Vietnam, the 
normal logistic support procedure required some changes. 
The CG, III MAF now provides logistic support when the 
SLF operates in areas contiguous to III MAF logistic in- 
stallations. When operating in areas isolated from 
established logistic support areas, ground units of the SLF 
utilize their own resources, with stocks reconstituted as 
practicable from the Force Logistic Command. While 
operating from the LPH, aviation units of the SLF will be 
supported by the LPH but, when operating ashore in the 
III MAF area of operations, support by the 1st Marine Air- 
craft Wing will augment that positioned by 9th MAB 
aboard ship. If the operations ashore extend beyond 15 
days, support of helicopters will become the responsibility 
of CG, III MAF. When the SLF operates ashore in loca- 
tions other than I CTZ (after 15 days), CG, III MAF will 
provide only aeronautical spares and special support 
equipment. All other logistic support responsibilities will 
remain with CG, 9th MAB (on Okinawa].* 

A final determinant for SLF commitments which 
received due consideration was the Communist plan 
for 1967. As the year opened with the sour memory 
of an uneasy and far from inviolate 48-hour New 
Year's truce, there were continuing indications of 
enemy buildups and unit movements in and north 
of the DMZ. As events proved, the Marine occupa- 
tion of the bases at Con Thien and remote, but vital, 
Khe Sanh alarmed the Communists, but at this early 
stage of the year there were no clear indications of 
Communist intentions in northern I Corps. 
Elsewhere in the corps area, the enemy obviously 
would continue to exert as much pressure as possible 



*"When the 9th MAB assumed responsibility for Marine avia- 
tion and ground units in the Western Pacific which were not in 
Vietnam, it became an important pan of SLF operations. . . . The 
Brigade's aviation component, MAG-15, became a composite 
MAG consisting of helicopters, KC-130s, and ftxed-wing attack 
and fighter aircraft, and, as such, was one of the largest air groups 
we have ever had." Col David O. Takala, Comments on draft ms, 
2Jun81 (Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



on allied units in order to immobilize or at least 
distract them. The year 1967 tested the validity of 
the SLF concept as the Communists forced the expe- 
dient of long and often unrewarding SLF com- 
mitments on the Marine commanders in I Corps. 

Operation Deckhouse V 
6 - 13 January 1967 

The first SLF operation of 1967, Deckhouse V, was 
significant for two reasons. It was a sizable, combin- 
ed U.S. Marine and Vietnamese Marine amphibious 
operation. More ominously, for the proponents of 
the SLF concept, it was the last SLF landing to take 
place beyond the boundaries of I Corps. 

The ARG, under Captain John D. Westervelt, 
USN, with Colonel Harry D. Wortman's SLF em- 
barked, steamed south to the coast of Kien Hoa 
Province in IV Corps for the landing. Deckhouse V 
was the only SLF operation for Major James L. Day's 
BLT 1/9 and it marked the end of SLF duty for Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Marshall B. Armstrong's HMM-362. 

D-day for Deckhouse V was 6 January. Both BLT 
1/9 and elements of Vietnamese Marine Brigade 
Force Bravo, primarily consisting of the 3d and 4th 
Vietnamese Marine Battalions, enjoyed support 
throughout the operation from HMM-362's mixed 
force of UH-34 and CH-46 helicopters operating 
from the USS Iwo Jima (LPH 2). The combined 
seaborne and helibornt force assaulted an area of 
suspected Viet Cong concentrations on the coast be- 
tween the Co Chien and Ham Luong reaches of the 
Mekong River. Lasting until 15 January, the opera- 
tion produced unspectacular results. The combined 
force killed only 21 Viet Cong, destroyed two small 
arms workshops, and captured 44 weapons and 42 
tons of rice. Seven U.S. Marines died and one Viet- 
namese Marine died accidentally. 

Some participants attributed Deckhouse V's 
failure to information leaks. The Marines en- 
countered only local force VC in the operational 
area, but prisoners stated that larger VC units had 
been there before the landings. Someone told Cap- 
tain Westervelt — he did not hear it himself— that a 
Philippine radio station broadcast the news when the 
ARG departed Subic Bay that the Marines were 
headed for the Mekong Delta.* 

Many other difficulties marred the execution of 
the combined operation. Communications were 
bad, rough seas interfered, planning was hurried, 
and on D plus 1 the 4th Battalion VNMC endured a 



152 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A191246 
Two men of BLT 1/9 look out over some of the flooded rice paddies that hampered 
mobility in Vietnam's Delta region during Operation Deckhouse V in January 1967. 



near record- breaking ship-to-shore landing-craft 
move of 23 miles, rivaled only by some of the U.S. 
shore-to-shore operations in the Pacific during 
World War II. Captain Westervelt recalled these dif- 
ficulties: 

The Navy aspects of the Deckhouse V landings were for- 
midable. Normal operating depths of water for the LPH, 
LPD and other deep draft ships in the Amphibious Ready 
Group were about 8 to 10 miles to seaward off the coastal 
areas of Kien Hoa between the Co Chien and Ham Loung 
Rivers. The 8-inch gun cruiser Canberra had a fire support 
station some eight miles, as I recall, from the impact areas 
for her pre-assault bombardment. Water depths adequate 
for LST and rocket ship passage over the shallow bar into 
positions for the assault landings obtained only at high 
tide. Because an early morning landing time was required 
for the Marine assault forces in the LVT3 vehicles, this 
meant that, to protect the surprise features of the 
landings, the LST's and rocket ships had to proceed over 
the bar late in the preceding evening at high tide to be in 
position by dawn. . . . 

The long distance off-shore required by the principal 
ARG ships plus the fact that some landing beaches were 
well upstream from the seaward beaches accounted for the 
long boat rides (up to 23 miles) required for some of the 
troops. 

The seas were very rough on the original D-Day (4 Jan) 
and again on 3 Jan, so the actual D-Day on 6 Jan was 2 



days late. However, even on the 6th it was not possible to 
load the [Vietnamese Marines] from the Henrico into 
LCM6's alongside, so Henrico, Thomaston and Vancouver 
returned to Vung Tau , transferred Henrico 's troops to the 
LPD and LSD so loading could take place in the well 
decks. The [Vietanamese Marines] actually landed on the 
7th.«* 

The operation encountered problems at an even 
higher level. Amphibious doctrine called for the am- 
phibious task force commander to control all aircraft 
in the amphibious operations area. Normally, these 
aircraft would come from the Navy and Marine 
Corps. The location of Deckhouse V created special 
circumstances, however, that dictated that all air 
support come from the Seventh Air Force. As 
Brigadier General John R. Chaisson later recalled, 
the commander of Seventh Air Force, Major General 
William W. Momyer, agreed with Navy control of 
aircraft in a traditional amphibious assault against a 
hostile shore. In the Mekong Delta, however, with 
the Air Force air control system already in place, 
General Momyer saw no valid reason to change the 
existing system just because an amphibious force 



*See Chapter 12 for the U.S. Marine advisors' accounts of the 
VNMC participation in Deckhouse V. 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



153 



temporarily was operating in the area. General 
Westmoreland backed the Navy in this argument in 
this case but all future SLF operations were to be in 
the I Corps area where such complicated command 
relationships could be avoided.' 

Deckhouse VI/Desoto 
16 February - 3 March 1967 

During late January the two main components of 
the SLF changed. Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth E. 
Huntington's HMM-363 relieved HMM-362 and 
Lieutenant Colonel Jack Westerman's BLT 1/4 
replaced BLT 1/9. Sailing from the Philippines, the 
newly constituted SLF arrived off the coast of Viet- 
nam on the l4th of February. 

While the SLF underwent its transition, signifi- 
cant changes occurred in I Corps. To release more 
ARVN troops for pacification work, U.S. Marine 
Task Force X-Ray, commanded by Brigadier General 
William A. Stiles, relieved Vietnamese troops of 
combat duties in southern Quang Ngai Province in 
January. General Stiles promptly initiated Operation 
Desoto, a search and destroy operation directed 
against known Communist strongholds in the 
region. To augment Desoto, the SLF received orders 
to operate in an area south of Task Force X-Ray's 
AO. The SLF operation was Deckhouse VI. As in 
Deckhouse V, Colonel Wortman commanded the 
SLF and Captain Westervelt, the ARG.^ 

The mission assigned to the SLF ground element, 
BLT 1/4, called for it to disrupt enemy movement in 
the Sa Huynh salt flats, search northward in the Nui 
Dau area, and, finally, link up with the 3d Bat- 
talion, 7th Marines, then operating around Nui Dau 
in Operation Desoto. 

At 0800 on 16 February, two rocket-firing landing 
ships started the naval gunfire preparation for the 
Deckhouse VI landings. Fifty-five minutes later, the 
first wave of HMM-363's helicopters lifted off the 
deck of the Iwo Jima and headed inland with the 
assault company, Company A. Company C landed 
in LVTs near Tach By and helicopters ferried the rest 
of the battalion inland. The landings were unoppos- 
ed. 

Brigadier General Louis Metzger, the comman- 
ding general of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade 
based on Okinawa, was there to observe this landing 
and commented later on the assault phase. He 
wrote: 



Because of the insistence of MACV a NOT AM [Notice 
to Aiimen] was published seveial days before each am- 
phibious operation, I suppose to protect any commercial 
air in the area. It didn't take a very effective intelligence 
system for the Viet Cong and /or NVA to know just where 
and when a landing was going to take place. Secondly, I 
was concerned that even though this landing was taking 
place in a populated area, the amphibious force carried out 
routine naval gunfire and air strikes. . . . Civilian 
casualties did result. Following the operation, I discussed 
the matter with Commander 7th Fleet [Admiral John H. 
Hyland] and he supported my position. At least as long as 
I was CG 9th MAB the NGF and Air Strikes in future 
landings in populated areas were on call.' 

Captain Westervelt later commented on a number 
of problems encountered during the assault landing 
in Deckhouse VI. He wrote: 

Deckhouse VI was treated as a regular assault landing 
complete with heavy pre-assault fires for the boat landings. 
In retrospect, because of the U.S. Army forces operating 
just to the south and west and U.S. Marines operating to 
the north and west of the assault area, the pre-assault fires 
should have been "on call." There were weather problems 
at Deckhouse VI when heavy fog and rain obscured the 
landing zones on D-Day and caused a one-day postpone- 
ment. Surface landings could have been carried out. The 
cruiser firing pre-assault fires commenced fire in spite of 
D-Day cancellation and probably gave some indication to 
any VC in the area that something unusual might be 
scheduled. However, this was improbable because the area 
was normally frequented by gunfire suppon destroyers. 

The population of the villages just south of Sa Huynh 
congregated on the eastern face of a ridge , which sloped 
up from the boat landing area, to watch the Marine lan- 
ding show. Originally, the pre-assault fires had included 
this area, but this had been changed on the advice of a 
representative from the Province Chiefs staff on board the 
flagship. He pointed with a dirty finger to the ridge and 
forced out his interpretation of "Friend" in English. We 
took him at his word and put those particular fires "on 
call."« 

The opening phase of Deckhouse VI was unevent- 
ful. The SLF planners had suspected this would be 
the case. True to form, local Communist units con- 
centrated on delaying and harassing tactics. The BLT 
confirmed the Communist presence in the area by 
destroying 167 fortifications and capturing 20 tons 
of assorted supplies during the 32 days of Phase I. 
Though there never were any major contacts, the 
BLT claimed 201 VC killed during this period; only 
six Marines died. Unfortunately, on 25 February, the 
HMM-363 commander, Lieutenant Colonel 
Huntington, and his copilot received wounds during 
a troop lift; the squadron executive officer. Major 
Marvin E. Day, assumed command on the 28th and 
continued in command for the duration of 



154 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A19I 174 
Heavy monsoon rains flooded the wide expanse of rice paddies through which these 
Marines are wading during Operation Deckhouse VI near the coast in February 1961 . 

which hit eight of the 14 helicopters in the assault 
lift, and put six out of action. All other loaded 
helicopters diverted to the beach area while suppor- 
ting Marine aircraft strafed and rocketed the VC 
defenders. Fortunately for the isolated Marines of 
the assault element, the Communists pulled out and 
that afternoon the rest of the battalion linked up 
with its first wave. By dark the BLT had consolidated 
near LZ Bat and began preparations for the next 
day's search and destroy operation. 

Other than the opposed landing at LZ Bat, Phase 

Infantrymen from BLT 1/4 rush a wounded Marine 

to a waiting CH-34D helicopter from HMM-363 for 

a flight to the amphibious ship USS Iwo Jima on 23 

DepartmentofDefensePhoto(USMC)Al9ii3i February 1967 during Operation Deckhouse VI. 

A member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Department ofDefense Photo (USMC) A188499 

Marines hits the deck as his unit comes under fire in 

Landing Zone Bat during Deckhouse VI, the SLF's 

companion piece to Operation Desoto in February. 

Deckhouse VI. Phase I ended on 26 February when 
the SLF Commander, Colonel Wortman, ordered a 
tactical withdrawal of the SLF from the Sa Huynh 
area to its ships to prepare for Phase II. 

Only 14 and one-half hours after the last element 
of the battalion left the Sa Huynh salt flats, the SLF 
landed again, this time 10 kilometers north of Sa 
Huynh. Phase II of Deckhouse VI, by now in- 
tegrated as part of the combined 7th Marines and 
ARVN Operation Desoto, started at 0830 on 27 
February. 

As the SLF helicopters approached LZ Bat, five 
miles inland from the beach, they met heavy fire 





THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



155 



II action almost repeated Phase I. Occasional contact 
and intermittent sniper fire marked the only enemy 
reactions. In the six days required to accomplish the 
second phase, the battalion killed 78 more VC, 
destroyed 145 fortifications, and captured an addi- 
tional five tons of supplies. Similarly, as in Phase I, 
the price totaled six more Marines dead. Deckhouse 
VI concluded on 3 March and the SLF promptly sail- 
ed for the Philippines; it returned to Vietnam, 
however, long before the month ended. 

Beacon Hill I 

20 March - 1 April 1967 

In the spring of 1967, III MAF faced a growing 
Communist capability to overrun the Marine base at 
Gio Linh and its appealing prize of four 175mm 
guns. Units of the 3d Marine Division committed to 
Operation Prairie remained thinly spread over an ex- 
tremely large area. Still more unsettling, intelligence 
sources reported five NVA infantry battalions in or 
near the eastern portion of the DMZ. 

In response to this threat, the SLF, offshore since 
14 March, went into action once more on the 20th.* 
Lieutenant Colonel Westerman's BLT 1/4, and 
HMM-363 commanded by newly-promoted Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Day, the former squadron executive 
officer, landed on the coast north of the Cua Viet. 
Operation Beacon Hill had begun. 



*The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing reinforced HMM-363 with a 
detachment of UH-lEs and CH-53s. 

A Navy hospital corpsman with Company D, 4th 
Marines treats a wounded Marine under fire in 
Operation Beacon Hill north of Cua Viet in March. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, March 1967 





3d MarDiv ComdC, March 1967 
An unshaven Marine rifleman carefully removes 
enemy equipment from a bunker in the North Viet- 
namese defense line destroyed in Operation Beacon 
Hill by BLT 1/4 on 26 March after an intense two- 
day preliminary bombardment by air and artillery. 

Contact was light until 21 March when the BLT 
engaged about 80 NVA troops, killing 14. The next 
day the battalion made contact again between Gio 
Linh and Con Thien. After a stiff fight the enemy, 
apparently a company, withdrew leaving 43 bodies 
behind. Progress during both days was slow because 
the NVA laced their positions with connecting tun- 
nels which required detailed search. 

On the 26th, after a two-day air and artillery 
preparation, the BLT broke through two well- 
prepared defensive trench lines. Again, the Marines 
encountered interconnecting tunnels. Finding the 
tunnels required care because the enemy had con- 
cealed them skillfully among the hedgerows. As the 
battalion cracked the position, the Communists 
again withdrew. Only sniper fire and minor rear 
guard actions slowed the advancing Marines. On 28 
March, BLT 1/4 shifted to the operational control of 
the 3d Marines and occupied a blocking position 
1,300 meters south of the Con Thien perimeter in 
support of a 3d Marines attack. This was the last 
phase of Beacon Hill and the operation ended on 1 
April. 

Beacon Hill results appeared promising. Although 
BLT 1/4 had suffered 29 Marines killed and 230 
wounded, it reported 334 NVA dead even though 
the Communists had fought from positions which 
were difficult to identify, much less exploit. 

With the end of Beacon Hill, the 1st Battalion, 
4th Marines transferred from the SLF to the 3d 
Marine Division. The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, 



136 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 188496 
LCpl Claude Tucker stands guard while the commanders of the two Special Landing 
Forces, Col Henry D. Wortman (center) of SLF Bravo and Col James A. Gallo ofSLF 
Alpha look over a suspected Viet Cong on the first day of Operation Deckhouse VI. 



commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wendell N. 
Vest, a regular line battalion scheduled for 
rehabilitation on Okinawa, started loading on board 
the empty ships of the ARG shipping on 2 April. 
The transports sailed on the 5th. 

While this exchange of units, ships, and roles took 
place. Marines on Okinawa were implementing the 
twin SLF concept. HMM-363 and the 1st Battalion, 
3d Marines joined SLF Alpha (Task Group 79-4) and 
the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines and HMM-164 became 
part of SLF Bravo (Task Group 79-5) battalion. Task 
Group 79.5 had operated as the single SLF since 
1965, but during the transitional period of March- 
April 1967, TG 79-5, now designated SLF Bravo, 
went through a standdown phase. Neither of the 
SLFs were in an offshore ready position during early 
April 1967. SLF Alpha, on board the ARG ships 
which sailed on 10 April, arrived on station near the 
DMZ on the 18th.. The ships carrying SLF Bravo 
followed shortly thereafter, sailing on 17 April. ' 

Beacon Star 
22 April - 12 May 1967 

Beacon Star was the first operation for newly 



designated SLF Bravo. As Navy Captain Richard L. 
Cochrane's ARG steamed toward northern I CTZ, 
Colonel Wortman, the SLF commander since 
September 1966, experienced normal prelanding 
doubts and anxieties. One reassuring factor was that 
both of his major subordinate units were I Corps 
veterans. The helicopter squadron, HMM-164, com- 
manded by Lieutenant Colonel Rodney D. 
McKitrick, had been in Vietnam since February 
1966, and Lieutenant Colonel Earl R. Delong's BLT 
2/3 originally arrived "in country" in May of 1965. 
Additional confidence stemmed from the fact that 
the BLT had just come from a one-month rehabilita- 
tion period on Okinawa. It was at full strength and 
all equipment was ready for combat. 

The target area for Beacon Star was a major VC 
stronghold and supply area along the border of 
Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces. The small O 
Lau River is the natural terrain feature which 
delineates the provincial borders in the coastal 
region. The center of the Beacon Star amphibious 
objective area (AOA) was 27 kilometers northwest of 
Hue, on the edge of what French soldiers called "La 
Rue Sans Joie," or "The Street Without Joy." The 



if ■ 



V 



ul 



L^l 



^ 



■ ,■ A^' 



A- 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC)Aiy3880 
Col James A. Gallo briefs senior Marines on 7 May on SLF Alpha's progress in Operation 
Beacon Star near the border of Quang Tri andThua Thien provinces. Prominent among 
the officers present are (seated, left) LtGen Victor H. Krulak and MajGen Robert E. 
Cushman, Jr. MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr. and BGen Foster C. Lahue stand at left. 



AO A was known for its heavy concentration of Com- 
munists; intelligence officers reported two battalions 
of the 6th Regiment and two main force battalions, 
the 810th and the 81 4th, were operating in the 
region. 

The Beacon Star scheme of maneuver consisted of 
a waterborne and heliborne BLT landing on the 
coast. The battalion was to move inland, generally 
following the O Lau River, while, at the same time, 
gradually expanding its TAOR in a southwesterly 
direction. 

Bad weather and poor visibility delayed operations 
on D-day, 22 April, but the first heliborne company 
landed at 0809- It met no opposition.* Beacon Star 
progressed according to plan; enemy resistance was 
minimal. On D plus four the battalion launched 
a combined helicopter and overland assault in the 
southwestern portion of the expanded TAOR to at- 
tack an estimated 250 VC spotted in the target area. 
Unfortunately, the BLT was not able to capitalize on 
this intelligence. 

Urgent orders from the Commander Task Group 
79.5 interrupted Beacon Star. The Phase I casualties, 
one killed and 10 wounded, would seem insignifi- 
cant in the face of what happened in the next 24 

*BLT 2/3 suffered approximately 60 heat casualties within 
about a three-hour period after landing. Colonel Rodney D. 
McKitrick later cited such incidents as part of the justification for 
the placing of an acclimatization room in the new Tawara class 
LHAs. Colonel Rodney D. McKitrick, Comments on draft ms, 
n.d. (1981) (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



hours. The new SLF Bravo was about to undergo its 
first real combat test. On 26 April, the name Khe 
Sanh was just another place name to many of Lieute- 
nant Colonel Delong's Marines; by mid-March those 
who survived would never forget it. 

While Phase I of Beacon Star proceeded, the 
Marines of the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines discovered 
strong Communist formations in the hills west of 
Khe Sanh, 43 miles from the Beacon Star area. 
Realizing that one battalion could not carry the hill 
mass, the 3d Marine Division commander, Major 
General Hochmuth, ordered BLT 2/3 to break off 
operations in the original Beacon Star AOA and pro- 
ceed to Khe Sanh. 

The tactical move to Khe Sanh was a transporta- 
tion triumph. At 1200 on the 26th, the division 
placed BLT 2/3, in the field and in contact with the 
enemy, under the operational control of the 3d 
Marines. By 1400, three of the BLT's companies and 
the command group were at Khe Sanh, and by 1600 
the BLT effected a link-up with elements of the 3d 
Battalion, 3d Marines northwest of the Khe Sanh 
perimeter. The BLT moved by helicopter from the 
Beacon Star AOA to Phu Bai, and from Phu Bai to 
Khe Sanh by Marine and U.S. Air Force KC-130 and 
C-130 Hercules transports. The total elapsed time 
from receipt of the warning order until the link-up 
near Khe Sanh totaled less than seven hours. 

The second phase of Beacon Star is more common- 
ly known as "The Khe Sanh Hill Fights" or the "First 



157 



158 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Battle of Khe Sanh."* The BLT's casualties during 
the period 2 7 April- 12 May gave evidence of the 
violence of the fighting for the Khe Sanh hills. Dur- 
ing these weeks the BLT lost 71 killed and 349 
wounded, more than a fourth of its strength. Of the 
78 Navy corpsmen assigned to the BLT, five died 
and 15 suffered wounds. 

The fighting at Khe Sanh tapered off in May and 
SLF Bravo's BLT 2/3 transferred from the 3d 
Marines' operational control back to the SLF. The 
return to ARG ships started on 10 May and finished 
on the 12th, signaling the official end of Beacon 
Star. 

Beaver Cage / Union I 
28 April - 12 May 1967 

The other special landing force, SLF Alpha, form- 
ed on Okinawa on 1 March 1967 under the com- 
mand of Colonel James A. Gallo, Jr. The new SLF 
contained BLT 1/3, commanded by Lieutenant Col- 
onel Peter A. "Pete" Wickwire, and HMM-263, 
commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward K. Kir- 
by. Both the helicopter squadron and the battalion 



*For a detailed account of the bitter contest for Hills 358, 861, 
881 North, and 881 South, see Chapter 4. 

A 60mm mortar crew with Company A, 1st Bat- 
talion, 3d Marines fires against a North Vietnamese 
Army unit on 20 May during Operation Beau 
Charger, the SLF's portion of Operation Hickory 
which cleared the southern portion of the DMZ. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, May 1967 





3d MarDiv ComdC, May 1967 
2dLt John V. Francis, wearing no shirt under his ar- 
mored vest because of the intense heat encountered 
in Operation Beaver Cage, takes a short break on 12 
May as BLT 1/3 concludes its initial SLF operation. 

had just finished rehabilitation periods on Okinawa 
and were at full strength. Departing from Okinawa 
on 10 April, the ARG, with SLF Alpha embarked, 
headed for Vietnam and made its first landing on 
the 28th. 

The target for the first SLF Alpha landing. Opera- 
tion Beaver Cage, was the rich and populous Que 
Son Valley, 25 miles south of Da Nang, important to 
the Communists as a source of both food and man- 
power. Beaver Cage started at 0700 28 April as the 
first heliborne elements of BLT 1/3 touched down. 
For the next four days heat caused more casualties 
than the enemy as operations continued against 
negligible opposition. 

Moving to a more promising operational area five 
miles to the north, the BLT made its first significant 
contact on 2 May. An enemy force, at least a pla- 
toon, attacked Company C as it dug in for the night. 
After dark, USAF AC-47 "Puff the Dragon" gun- 
ships and "Spooky" flare planes. Marine artillery, 
and the BLT's own supporting arms pounded the 
suspected Communist positions. The enemy fled. 

The next morning the battalion resumed its 
sweeping operations. The enemy did not react until 
5 May. That night the VC struck back, hitting the 
BLT headquarters and support elements with mortar 
and small arms fire as they evacuated a landing zone. 
The Headquarters and Service Company troops and 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



159 



the attached Marines of 4. 2 -inch Mortar Battery, 1st 
Battalion, 12th Marines, repulsed the Communists. 
Despite the intensity of the attack and reduced 
visibility caused by oncoming darkness. Lieutenant 
Colonel Kirby's helicopters successfully extracted 200 
men and more than 1 and one-half tons of ammuni- 
tion without loss. 

To the north, while BLT 1/3 conducted Beaver 
Cage, the 5th Marines engaged in Operation Union 
I. On 9 May the Beaver Cage scheme of maneuver 
reoriented to include an eastward sweep toward the 
coast coordinated with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines 
on the BLT's right. In this manner the final stage of 
Beaver Cage became a part of the Union I plan, 
although the BLT designed its maneuver to place it 
in position for an amphibious withdrawal.* During 
the last week of the operation, 6-12 May, the BLT 
endured continuous mortar attacks and sniper fire. 

On 10 May, as the eastward sweep continued, 
Companies B and C engaged in a day-long action 
with a si2able VC force. After much maneuvering, 
air strikes, mortar missions, and the insertion of a 
40-man Sparrow Hawk unit, the VC broke off the 
action, but only after the BLT killed 86 enemy 
soldiers. Beaver Cage /Union I ended for the SLF 
Alpha units on 12 May as they returned to their 
respective ships. 

The first operation for SLF Alpha had been a cost- 
ly venture, but all units had demonstrated their 
fighting qualities. Battalion casualties totaled 55 
Marines killed and 151 wounded, but in 16 days of 
continuous operations the BLT claimed 181 enemy 
dead and a bag of 66 prisoners. The next test of SLF 
Alpha was only five days away. 

Beau Charger/Belt Tight/Hickory 

PrairielV/ Cimarron 

18 May - 10 June 1967 

Because of the Communist rocket and artillery 
buildup in the DMZ during the spring of 1967, 
General Westmoreland issued a directive authoriz- 
ing the entry of forces into the DMZ buffer zone 
south of the Ben Hai River, actually South Viet- 
namese territory. The authorization triggered plan- 
ning for a series of simultaneous operations to be 
conducted in the new manuever area, one by ARVN 
forces and three by the U.S. Marines. The code 
names for these operations were Hickory for 3d 



Marine Divison units. Beau Charger for SLF Alpha, 
Belt Tight for SLF Bravo, and Lam Son 54 for the 
South Vietnamese task force.* The overall concept 
envisioned the movement of SLF Bravo into the 
Hickory Operation by means of Operation Belt 
Tight, while SLF Alpha was to operate east of the 
Hickory /Lam Son 54 operational areas under the 
aegis of Beau Charger. The Beau Charger/ Belt 
Tight /Hickory plan was unique in that it called for 
the employment of both SLFs in the same opera- 
tional area at the same time. 

The opening scheme of maneuver called for the 
movement of three separate assault forces to the Ben 
Hai River where they were to face about and drive 
south on roughly parallel axes, destroying all enemy 
units and installations in their paths. The plan in- 
cluded the establishment of a free-fire zone which 
would require the evacuation of more than 10,000 
noncombatants from the buffer zone, a monumen- 
tal task assigned to the Vietnamese National Police. 

D-day for Beau Charger, SLF Alpha's show, was 
18 May. Fifteen UH-34s of Lieutenant Colonel Kir- 
by's HMM-263 lifted from the flight deck of the USS 
Okinawa (LPH-3) and headed inland, each loaded 
with five Marines from the assault element. Com- 
pany A, BLT 1/3. L-hour was 0800. The landing 
zone. Goose, was less than six kilometers from the 
North Vietnamese boundary of the DMZ, and 
almost within small arms range of the north bank of 
the Ben Hai River. 

The SLF planners studied aerial photographs of 
the terrain before the operation, but conducted no 
prelanding overflights to preserve secrecy. For the 
same reason, they requested no air and naval gunfire 
preparations of the LZ. Intelligence sources had 
reported the presence of many enemy antiaircraft 
machine guns in the area. 

Flying lead, Kirby led his 34s toward the poten- 
tially dangerous zone, flying at altitudes of less than 
50 feet to reduce the enemy gunners' effectiveness. 
A maximum speed approach, about 80 knots, lack of 
prominent landmarks, and the tenseness of the 
situation made navigation difficult at best. Kirby 
landed at the north end of the zone, but as he did 
machine gun fire ripped into his helicopter. The 
enemy bullets wrecked the helicopter's radio and 
wounded the copilot, crew chief, gunner, and three 
infantrymen. Another infantryman, killed, fell out 
of the helicopter. The wounded gunner returned fire 



*See Chapter 3 for the 5th Marines' account of Union I. 



*The non-SLF operations appeared in Chapter 1. 



160 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



and, as Kirby later related, 
bacon. "'° 



. . saved [our] 



Kirby managed to get the helicopter back in the 
air, but without a radio he had no contact with the 
rest of his flight or with the Okinawa. Four other 
UH-34s in the assault wave and two escorting UH- 
lEs suffered damage from enemy fire, but the entire 
wave unloaded its troops. As soon as Kirby got his 
crippled helicopter back to the Okinawa, he briefed 
the SLF commander. Colonel Gallo, on the bad 
situation at LZ Goose. Colonel Gallo ordered the 
cancellation of all further lifts to Goose and the 
substitution of the alternate LZ, Owl, 800 meters 
south of Goose. The assault element of Company A 
at Goose was very much alone and in trouble. 

Second Lieutenant Dwight G. Faylor's 2d Platoon, 
Company A spread over 800 yards at LZ Goose. A 
well-organized enemy force pressed his thinly held 
position from the northwest. The BLT naval gunfire 
liaison officer, Ensign John W. McCormick, vainly 
tried to call in naval gunfire. The ships denied his re- 
quests; no one was certain of the exact location of 
friendly positions and in many cases the enemy was 
too close to use naval guns without endangering the 
Marines. Rescue was on the way, but the Marines at 
Goose were in desperate straits. 

While the abortive assault at LZ Goose was taking 
place, Company D landed in LVTs at Green Beach, 
900 meters southeast of LZ Owl. This landing was 
unopposed. By 0855, the remainder of Company A 
had landed at Owl. Overland reinforcements arrived 
at Owl in the form of one platoon from Company D 
and a section of tanks. At 0930 the lead elements of 
Company B began landing. The force at Owl then 
moved out to rescue the beleaguered platoon at LZ 
Goose. 

By 1 100 the rescue force had regained contact with 
Faylor's platoon, but the enemy showed no signs of 
breaking off the engagement. Company B joined 
the fighting at Goose and the tempo of battle in- 
creased. Stymied by a tenaciously held trenchline, 
the Company A Marines tried another avenue of at- 
tack. Moving against the Communist position under 
the cover of a tree line, the Marines engaged enemy 
soldiers in furious hand-to-hand fighting. Company 
A's advance bogged down again and the infan- 
trymen called in close air support to crack the tough 
position. Eleven jets blasted the entrenched Com- 
munists and finally both Companies A and B, sup- 
ported by tanks, moved forward. As the fighting 



died down, the Marines counted 67 Communist 
bodies. 

Belt Tight started on 20 May. The initial mission 
of SLF Bravo was to land in the northeastern corner 
of the 3d Division's Hickory operational area and 
conduct search and destroy operations within a 
designated TAOR.* At 0714 on the 20th, Com- 
panies F and H with a BLT 2/3 command group 
started landing at LZ Parrot. Companies E and G 
followed with another command group landing at 
LZ Mockingbird at 0850. The initial enemy reaction 
was deceptive; the Marines encountered only light 
resistance. 

The general trace of SLF Bravo's sweep in its 
TAOR was in a southerly direction. The Hickory 
planners wanted the SLF to dislodge enemy units in 
the area, thereby driving them into 3d Division units 
moving up from the south. Neither the 3d Marine 
Division nor SLF Bravo ever determined how many 
enemy troops Belt Tight displaced, but the SLF ex- 
perienced four days of close combat during the 
operation, certainly an indication that its presence 
had a spoiling effect on enemy intentions. 
Throughout the Belt Tight period, BLT 2/3 en- 
countered well-trained enemy troops who fought 
with skill and determination. The enemy's soundly 
constructed positions and excellent weapons employ- 



*A description of 3d Marine Division participation irj Opera- 
tion Hickory appears in Chapter 1 . 

Two riflemen from BLT Hi pass carefully through a 

Vietnamese village while on Operation Beaver Cage. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A371988 




THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



161 



ment caused severe problems for the battalion as it 
fought its way south. During one of the many mor- 
tar attacks, Lieutenant Colonel Delong, the BLT 
commander, aggravated an old back injury which 
necessitated his evacuation. His experienced ex- 
ecutive officer. Major Wendell O. Beard, a former 
Amphibious Warfare School instructor who joined 
the battalion in February, took command. 

Beh Tight ended at 1559, 23 May 1967. At this 
time BLT 2/3 shifted to the operational control of 
the 9th Marines which assigned the BLT a new area 
of operations as part of Operation Hickory, represen- 
ting a continuation of the Belt Tight sweep. Until 
Hickory ended at midnight on the 28th, the bat- 
talion continued its deliberate sweep operations. 
The highlight of this period was a sharp engagement 
between Company E, commanded by Captain Stuart 
R. Vaughan, and a determined NVA force defend- 
ing the village of Xuan Hai. The battle started on 
the afternoon of the 24th and did not end until the 
Marines completed a detailed sweep of the village 
ruins at 2155 on the following day. The enemy force 
had built 40 defensive bunkers in and around the 
town. Company E destroyed them and counted 27 
dead NVA soldiers on the site. SLF casualties were 
light during the nine days of Belt Tight /Hickory, 
considering the fact that the battalion was either in 
contact or under artillery attack during most of the 
period. SLF Bravo had 17 Marines killed and 152 
wounded. North Vietnamese losses totaled a con- 
firmed 58 killed and one prisoner taken by the 
Marines. 

When Hickory finished on 28 May, BLT 2/3 re- 
mained in the field, still under the operational con- 
trol of the 9th Marines. During the next three days 
the battalion participated in Operation Prairie IV 
which ended on the 31st. The BLT's assignment in- 
volved primarily a security operation in relief of both 
the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines and the 1st Battalion, 
4th Marines. BLT 2/3 protected artillery positions 
immediately north of the Cam Lo Bridge, the bridge 
itself, and provided route security for both truck 
convoys and engineer units on Route ;6l from north 
of the Cam Lo Bridge to Con Thien, an air distance 
of slightly over 10 kilometers. 

Although the Prairie IV assignment was of short 
duation, the end of the operation did not eliminate 
the security requirements for Route 561 and nearby 
positions. As a consequence, SLF Bravo, still under 
operational control of the 9th Marines, retained its 
Prairie IV mission as part of a new 3d Division plan. 



Operation Cimarron. Cimarron lasted from 1 June 
until 2 July, though SLF Bravo's involvement lasted 
only through 10 June. 

The SLF participation in Cimarron succeeded, in 
the sense that there was no local enemy activity. The 
enemy stayed away, the road remained open, and 
Con Thien maintained its defensive integrity. The 
BLT spent 9-10 June reorganizing and moving back 
to Dong Ha combat base. Reembarkation on the 
1 1th marked the end of the longest SLF combat 
deployment ashore since its formation, 23 days of 
continous operations. The shipboard respite would 
be short; SLF Bravo would land again in only a 
week's time. 

Day On, Stay On -SLF 
Operational Tempo Increases 

The spring and early summer of 1967 challenged 
the flexibility of the SLF concept in I Corps. Varia- 
tions ranged from SLF Bravo's April "fire brigade" 
action at Khe Sanh during Operation Beacon Star to 
dull, but necessary, "housekeeping" duties assigned 
to BLT 2/3 during its 10 days with Operation Cimar- 
ron. As the year progressed, SLF operational com- 
mitments increased, not only in frequency, but also 
in days ashore. During the first four months of 1967, 
the average number of days of monthly combat com- 
mitment for a SLF was only 12.* SLF Alpha's Opera- 
tion Beaver Cage landing in April signaled a drastic 
increase in operational tempo. The May combat-day 
average jumped to 16 and one-half days per BLT, 
while June operations resulted in a new high of 22 
days for SLF Alpha and 24 for SLF Bravo. 

The remainder of the year reflected a much 
heavier reliance on the SLFs. Average commitments 
remained above the 20-days-per-month figure. Not 
only did the number of combat days increase, but 
the number of individual operations involving the 
SLFs more than doubled. 

The reasons for the increase in tempo were not 
related to a single cause. The forthcoming Viet- 
namese National elections, continuing Communist 
unit moves in northern I Corps, and offensive sweeps 
to protect Marine fire support bases were only some 
of the factors which demanded SLF participation. 



*SLF Bravo provided the basis for this computation because of 
SLF Alpha's late entry into RVN, in April 1967. SLF Bravo's com- 
bat days by month in early 1967 were: January, 10; February, 13; 
March, 15; and April, 10. 



162 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Even though many of the SLF operations were in- 
conclusive, their harried staffs deserve tribute. In 
spite of the stepped-up operational tempo of 1967, 
the SLF planners kept abreast of the often confusing, 
and always demanding, I Corps tactical situation. 

Bear Bite I Colgate / Choctaw I Maryland 

2 - 5 June, 7-11 June, 

12 - 25 June, 25 - 27 June 1967 

Bear Bite, a conventional LVT and helicopter 
assault, was the first of SLF Alpha's June operations. 
It targeted the Viet Cong operating along the coast 
40 kilometers southeast of the DMZ in the "The 
Street Without Joy" region. Starting at 0730 on 2 
June, BLT 1/3 spent the next 72 hours probing and 
destroying unoccupied enemy positions. Enemy 
snipers and a troublesome Marine tank stuck in a 
paddy were the only hindrances to the operation. 
There were no SLF casualties, but the Marines killed 
only two of the enemy and picked up nine suspects. 
On 5 June the BLT returned to the 4th Marines' 
perimeter by helicopter. 

Two days later, the battalion moved out again on 
the uneventful Operation Colgate. During the in- 
tervening day the new SLF Alpha commander. Col- 
onel John A. Conway, assumed command. The 
subsequent Operation Choctaw, southwest of the 
Bear Bite AOA, involved 11 days of tedious sweeps 
west of Route 1 along the Thac Ma River. About as 
productive as Bear Bite, Choctaw netted only 15 
more detainees and nine enemy killed. Nineteen 
Marines suffered wounds. At 1300 on 23 June the 
last elements of the battalion returned from the field 
to the 4th Marines' Camp Evans, 23 kilometers 
northwest of Hue. 

When it started Operation Maryland on 25 June, 
BLT 1 / 3 moved by helicopters into the same general 
area where it had been for Colgate. The battalion's 
zone of action included the southwestern edge of the 
grave-covered Maryland area. Elements of a VC bat- 
talion operated in the region. The Marine battalion 
did not find them, but ARVN units advancing from 
the north encountered what probably were two VC 
companies. The ARVN units killed 114 Com- 
munists. In its own zone, the BLT killed seven Com- 
munists, took 35 prisoners, and salvaged almost nine 
tons of rice at the cost of three Marines wounded. By 
mid-morning on the 27th, the BLT departed the 
area in helicopters as Maryland ended after four 
weeks of probing graves and tunnels. On 28 June, 



HMM-362, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Nick 
J. Kapetan, relieved HMM-263 as the SLF Alpha 
helicopter squadron, and the next day the BLT 
reembarked." 

June was a trying time for SLF Alpha. Four 
separate operations, none of which achieved signifi- 
cant results, could only be called "good experience." 
For the Marines of the SLF, the loss of three men and 
the wounding of 5 1 others served as a terse reminder 
of the price of experience. The SLF Alpha BLT now 
had six operations to its credit, and, since its first 
landing on 28 April, it had killed 307 Communists. 

Beacon Torch /Calhoun 
18 June - 2 July, 23 June - 2 July 1967 

Operation Beacon Torch placed SLF Bravo south 
of Da Nang in the coastal region near the Quang 
Nam and Quang Tin provinical border. A conven- 
tional search and destroy operation, Beacon Torch 
covered an enemy-controlled area east of the Troung 
Giang River and southeast of the city of Hoi An. 

A companion operation, Calhoun, targeted 
against the "Pagoda Valley" west of the Beacon 
Torch AOA, started on 25 June. The area received 
this name because of the many small pagodas on the 
valley floor. Ill MAF suspected "Pagoda Valley" of 
being a Communist forward logistic base. In essence, 
BLT 2/3 phased into Calhoun and, when Calhoun 
ended, it withdrew as originally planned in Beacon 
Torch. 

Beacon Torch started at 0630 on 18 June as assault 
elements of Company F, followed by Command 
Group Alpha landed in what the helicopter pilots 
thought was LZ Cardinal. Actually, the heliborne 
troops landed 2,000 meters south of Cardinal. Com- 
pany H landed at what the pilots believed was LZ 
Wren. It, too, landed in the wrong place and 2,000 
meters south of its planned starting position. 

While the first heliborne companies untangled 
their LZ problems. Company G landed on Red 
Beach, followed by the 2d Platoon (Reinforced), 
Company A, 3d Tank Battalion. Once the squadron 
resolved the LZ location problems, it lifted Com- 
pany E into the correct LZ Cardinal. 

Company H made the first contact at 0930. Light 
encounters continued throughout the day until 1540 
when Company H engaged about 100 enemy troops. 
In the ensuing firefight, 43 of Company H's Marines 
succumbed to nonbattle causes; most were heat 
casualties. The enemy killed five Marines and 
wounded 14 while the Communists left 23 bodies 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



163 



behind. The enemy disengaged at sunset. 

The BLT moved out again on the 19th. Small ac- 
tions flated up throughout the day and the advanc- 
ing Marines began discovering hidden enemy food 
stocks. 

After another quiet night, the BLT renewed sweep 
operations at 0845 on the 20th when Company E 
crossed the Troung Giang River. That afternoon, 
Company H had great difficulty fording the Troung 
Giang, but by late afternoon the battalion began 
moving westward again. Scattered contact continued 
west of the river for the next three days. The 
highlight of this period was Company E's discovery 
of three tons of rice and two tons of potatoes early on 
the morning of the 24th. At 0600, 25 June, Opera- 
tion Beacon Torch phased into Operation Calhoun. 
By 1300, 25 June Company E had discovered 
another 1,000 pounds rice and at 1600 Company G 
uncovered a two-ton cache. The rice hunt continued 
and on the 26th the Marines bagged and helilifted 
another 7,600 pounds to the ARVN-controUed town 
of Dien Ban, nine kilometers west of Hoi An. The 
largest single find of the operation was a five-ton 
cache discovered by Company F on the morning of 
the 27th. Complementing this discovery. Company 
G, assisted by ARVN troops, rounded up and 
evacuated 84 stray cattle. 

Minor skirmishes and the detention of scattered 
suspects continued until Calhoun ended at 1200, 1 
July. Reverting to the Beacon Torch plan, the BLT 
began its retraction. As the last units returned to 
their respective ships. Beacon Torch ended at 1300, 
2 July. 

Beacon Torch/ Calhoun hurt the Communists in 
central I Corps. The BLT captured more than 40 tons 
of rice and other food stocks, over 31 of which they 
evacuated for ARVN use. The rest they destroyed in 
place. The BLT's casualty ratio was favorable. Eighty- 
six enemy died in contrast to only 13 SLF Marines. 
The BLT suffered 123 nonbattle casualties. 

Beacon Torch /Calhoun, however, had no lasting 
impact, as emphasized by the fact that the departing 
Marines sighted enemy troops near the beach area 
during the retraction. The Communists could not af- 
ford to lose control of the population and im- 
mediately reoccupied the area to repair the damage 
caused by the operation. 

SLF Alpha in Bear Claw I Buffalo I Hickory 11 
3 - 16 July 1967 



ships of TG 76.4, prepared for Operation Bear Claw, 
a proposed landing in eastern Quang Tri Province. 
The SLF cancelled Bear Claw at 0100 on the 3rd 
when it received orders alerting BLT 1/3 for im- 
mediate employment in the 9th Marines TAOR at 
Con Thien. The 9th Marines was in trouble. 

Lieutenant Colonel Richard J. "Spike" Schening's 
1st Battalion, 9th Marines provided the security of 
the Con Thien perimeter. Two of the battalion's 
companies, A and B, on patrol a mile and a half 
northeast of Con Thien, had discovered a large NVA 
force, at least two battalions of the 90t/? NVA Regi- 
ment. The initial contact took place as the Marine 
companies were trying to link up. In this awkward 
situation, the North Vietnamese managed to punish 
each company separately. Additionally, the Com- 
munists hit the Marines with massed artillery fire 
from north of the DMZ. Casualties mounted on 
both sides as the battle intensified. Company B lost 
most of its officers; the company commander, his 
FO, the FAC, and two platoon commanders were 
casualties.* 

Responding to this serious situation. Lieutenant 
Colonel Schening committed Company C, 1st Bat- 
talion, 9th Marines, reinforced by tanks. The action 
intensified as the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines arrived 
from Dong Ha to help regain control of the situa- 
tion. At this stage. III MAF requested SLF Alpha. 
Similarly, SLF Bravo, also at sea, went on alert. The 
mission assigned to SLF Alpha during Operation 
Buffalo, the name given the continuing engagement 
with the 90th NVA Regiment, was to tie in to the 
right flank of the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines and 
sweep the battle area to recover 1st Battalion, 9th 
Marines' casualties. 

The original 0100 warning order for SLF Alpha 
preceded a regimental briefing at 0700 which set 
L-hour at 1030. After much frenzied action on the 
part of the SLF, the launch took place on schedule. 
Throughout the late morning of 3 July, Lieutenant 
Colonel Kapetan's HMM-362 flew BLT 1/3 into the 
zone of action, supplemented by CH-46s from SLF 
Bravo's HMM-164.12 Unfortunately, the lead assault 
elements of the BLT landed 2,500 meters south of 
the designated landing zone, a mile southeast of 
Con Thien. Readjusting the battalion cost valuable 
time. The first physical contact with the right flank 
of the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines occurred at 1315. 
By the time all of BLT 1/3 had moved into the cor- 



The first two days of July, SLF Alpha on board the *See Chapter 5 for additional description of this action. 



164 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



rect positions, however, the level of fighting had 
waned, and only Communist gunners remained ac- 
tive. The night of 3-4 July was relatively quiet, as was 
the next day. The 5th opened with an early morning 
enemy mortar attack against Companies A and C. 
Exchanges of artillery and mortar fire punctuated 
most of the day. The battalion continued its sweep 
operation. On the 6th, enemy rockets knocked out a 
Marine tank. The fighting around the disabled tank 
became so savage that the BLT did not reach the 
burnt-out hulk until 1000 on the 7th of July. The 
Marines recovered the bodies of the crew early the 
next morning. 

At 1330, 8 July, the BLT received orders to make 
an immediate withdrawal. This was a challenging 
operation even under ideal circumstances. 
Wickwire's battalion faced a dangerous situation. 
There were five complications: it was daylight; the 
battalion was in contact; the withdrawal would occur 
over 600 meters of open ground; two of the attached 
tanks were crippled; and the battalion had just 
received resupplies and had no organic transport to 
move the vital, though cumbersome, material. A 
sixth factor added to the BLT's problems. Just as the 
withdrawal began, the Communists opened up with 
small arms, mortars, and artillery. In spite of these 
difficuties, the battalion carried out this complex 
maneuver with only light casualties. 

The next four days of Buffalo involved patrolling 
the Con Thien perimeter. Buffalo ended on the 
morning of 14 July. The Marines of BLT 1/3 had 
recovered the bodies of 11 fellow Marines from the 
1st Battalion, 9th Marines, but their efforts were 
costly; the BLT's price was eight killed and 179 
wounded. Operation Buffalo produced a total of 424 
verified North Vietnamese dead for the BLT. 

While Buffalo neared its terminal phase, Com- 
USMACV directed that a followup sweep be con- 
ducted of the area south of the DMZ and east of Con 
Thien. In response. III MAP initiated Operation 
Hickory II. The plan called for SLF Alpha's BLT 1/3 
to move out from its final Buffalo positions with the 
1st Battalion, 4th Marines on the BLT's right. The 
combined force would sweep southward in a search 
and destroy operation. Three other battalions were 
to block north and south of the operational area. All 
Hickory II battalions came under the operational 
control of the 9th Marines, with the exception of SLF 
Bravo which served the 3d Marines as a blocking 
force on the western edge of the sweep zone. 

The evening of the first day of Hickory II, BLT 1/3 



received orders to move to a phase line approximate- 
ly 15,000 meters south of its position by 1700 the 
next day. As a consequence, though the deployed 
battalion formations remained prepared to engage 
the enemy, the required speed of advance prevented 
the battalion from making a detailed search of its 
zone of action. During Hickory II, BLT 1/3 ex- 
perienced no enemy contact, and the net result was 
the capture of 17 suspects. There were no friendly 
casualties. The operation ended at 1600 on 16 July 
and the next day SLF Alpha returned to the TG 79.4 
ships. 

SLF Bravo in Beaver Track /Buffalo /Hickory II 
4 - 16 July 1967 

When SLF Alpha joined Buffalo on 3 July, SLF 
Bravo went on standby, and it entered the Buffalo 
area on 4 July on Operation Beaver Track. At 0640, 
Major Wendell O. Beard,* the BLT 2/3 com- 
mander, and Company H loaded in Lieutenant Col- 
onel Rodney D. McKitrick's Ch-46s and flew off the 
USS Tripoli (LPH 10); destination: Cam Lo. 
McKitrick's HMM-164 ferried the rest of the bat- 
talion to an assembly area north of Cam Lo where 
the BLT prepared for employment as directed by the 
3d Marine Division. At 1300, BLT 2/3, under opera- 
tional control of its parent regiment, gained the 1st 
Platoon of Company A, 3d Tank Battalion. The bat- 
talion spent the afternoon moving into position in 
preparation for impending search and destroy opera- 
tions. 

The Beaver Track operation order directed the 
battalion to move out at 0700 on 5 July and attack 
northward on a four-kilometer front to a point just 
south of the southern limit of the DMZ. There, the 
battalion was to turn and move roughly three 
kilometers west. During Phase II, a return sweep, 
the battalion was to maneuver south to the Cam Lo 
River from its DMZ position, following an axis 
parallel to but west of the Phase I axis of advance. 
Friendly units had occupied the area as recently as 
two days before the start of Beaver Track, but in- 
telligence sources reported that elements of the 29tA 
NVA Regiment were making a reconnaissance of the 
region. 

At 0700, 5 July, Major Beard's troops moved out. 
As in many similar operations, nothing happened at 



*Major Beard's nickname was "Moose," a reference to his size. 
LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) (Com- 
ment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



165 



W'-~-' 




Courtesy of Mrs. Wendell O. Beard 
Company H, 2d Battalion, 5d Marines boards CH-46A helicopters from HMM-l64fora 
flight from the USS Tripoli to Cam Lo on 4 July as SLF Bravo begins Operation Beaver 
Track, a subsidiary of the 5 d Marine Division's Operation Buffalo south of the DMZ. 



first. The Marines discovered and demolished aban- 
doned bunkers as the day progressed. By midafter- 
noon, Company E was enduring desultory sniper 
fire, but no contact developed. That night remained 
quiet. 

The enemy made the first move at 0535 on 6 July 
with a probe of Company E's perimeter. The Marines 
met the attack with skillful, coordinated machine 
gun and artillery fire. The Communists broke off the 
engagement, leaving 14 bodies behind plus aban- 
doned weapons and equipment. Shortly after the 
beginning of the fight along the Company E 
perimeter, 40 NVA mortar rounds hit the BLT com- 
mand group and Company G, located about four 
kilometers south of the DMZ. Return fires tem- 
porarily silenced the Communist gunners, but at 
0800 a Company H patrol less than three kilometers 
to the northeast also came under mortar fire. Sup- 
porting tanks and artillery again silenced the enemy, 
but not before RPG rounds hit two of the supporting 
Marine tanks. 

At 0930, the enemy struck a Company F patrol 
with a command-detonated claymore-type mine, 
and half an hour later. Company G, operating east 
of Company F, also encountered enemy claymores. 
A brief flurry of action occurred when the tank pla- 



toon commander, 2d Lieutenant Edward P. B. 
O'Neil, spotted NVA troops in the vicinity of the 
destroyed town of Nha An Hoa. The tankers' 90mm 
guns and heavy machine guns accounted for 16 of 
them. The remainder of the 6th of July reverted to 
duels between Communist mortars and IJ. S. ar- 
tillery. 

As the sweep continued on the 7th, the SLF Bravo 
Marines confronted increasing numbers of enemy 
bunkers, all deserted, but many showing signs of re- 
cent use. The search for the elusive 29th NVA Regi- 
ment continued. 

July 8th was a day filled with the curious whims of 
combat. At 0800 a patrol from Company H found a 
completely stripped UH-34D surrounded with 
assorted NVA equipment. While these Marines ex- 
amined their disquieting prize, another Company H 
patrol was busily engaged destroying captured 
enemy equipment. Someone or something triggered 
an unknown explosive device which killed eight 
Marines. A Company G patrol tripped a "Bouncing 
Betty"* at 1030; two more Marines died and another 
received wounds. The tempo of action picked up an 



*A "Bouncing Betty" mine, projected upward by a small 
charge, explodes its main charge at waist level. 



166 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 










Courtesy of Mrs. Wendell O. Beard 
A division ofCH-46A helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 carries 
elements of BLT 2/3 to shore from the USS Tripoli during Operation Beaver Track. 



hour and a half later when Company G engaged in a 
sharp action in one of the many Communist bunker 
complexes. Air and artillery smashed the enemy 
position. The Company G Marines found 35 NVA 
bodies in the wreckage after the bombardment. 

The fortunes of war smiled on the BLT that after- 
noon. As the battalion patrol actions continued, 
Company F executed a classic example of fire and 
maneuver. One squad, immobilized by enemy 
automatic weapons fire coming from a well- 
developed position, became a pivot for the rest of 
the company. The Marines fixed the Communists in 
their dug-in positions and called in supporting arms. 
The Marines counted 73 NVA bodies in the 
followup sweep and captured three 82mm mortars. 

During the following days, the BLT Marines 
discovered and destroyed more bunkers, fighting 
positions, and shelters, but the Communists chose 
not to fight. Meanwhile, at sea on board the USS 
Tripoli, Lieutenant Colonel McKitrick's HMM-164 
turned over its SLF assignment on 12 July to 
HMM-265, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel 
William R. Beeler. 

To capitalize on the results of Operation Buffalo, 
which had paralleled Beaver Track, ComUSMACV 
ordered that another sweep be made south of the 
Ben Hai River to destroy enemy weapons positions in 
the southern half of the DMZ. Known as Operation 
Hickory II, the plan was similar in concept to the 
13-battalion Hickory I sweep conducted in the same 
area during May. Hickory II was smaller in scale; it 
employed seven maneuver battalions and four block- 



ing battalions.** Since BLT 2/3 was already located 
northwest of Cam Lo, it became a blocking battalion 
on the western edge of the zone of action. 

SLF Bravo received the Hickory II operation order 
on the morning of 13 July. At 0700 the next morn- 
ing the battalion moved out, securing designated 
objectives en route to its final blocking position. At 
1000, the battalion commander. Major Beard, 
became a casualty and his executive officer. Major 
John H. Broujos, took over the battalion. By 1230 
the battalion reached the blocking positions and 
searched the surrounding terrain. During BLT 2/3's 
brief two-day involvement in Hickory II, Com- 
munist antipersonnel devices were the most serious 
threat. Grenades rigged as booby traps killed two 
Marines and wounded 13. Other than mortar fire, 
the 2d Battalion had no contact with the enemy dur- 
ing Hickory II. 

The BLT reconstituted at 0600 on 16 July as 
Hickory II ended. Reembarkation began immediate- 
ly. SLF Bravo's participation in the Beaver Track/ 
Buffalo /Hickory II operations produced an im- 
pressive, verified kill ratio. Sixteen SLF Bravo 
Marines gave their lives, while the battalion killed 
148 NVA soldiers. 

Bear Chain /Fremont 
20 - 26 July 1967 

At sea on 17 July 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Emil 
W. Herich assumed command of BLT 2/3, relieving 



**Sec Chapter 6 for the account of other III MAP units' par- 
ticipation in Hickory II. 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



167 



Major Broujos, who reverted to battalion executive 
officer. Lieutenant Colonel Herich had only a brief 
"shakedown;" SLF Bravo landed again on the 20th. 
The operation, Bear Chain, targeted the coastal 
region between Quang Tri City and the city of Hue. 
The mission was to attack the exposed seaward flank 
of the 806th VC Battalion and to destroy it, or at 
least drive it westward toward ARVN forces engaged 
in Operation Lam Son 87. 

Southwest of the Bear Chain operational area, the 
4th Marines was conducting a search and destroy 
operation named Fremont. As Bear Chain progress- 
ed, it phased into Fremont. At 1400 on 21 July, BLT 
2/3 switched to the operational control of the 4th 
Marines for the rest of the operation. 

Bear Chain /Fremont produced the desired results. 
The enemy reacted as the Bear Chain planners had 
hoped. Communist units moved west toward Route 
1, directly into the Lam Son 87 ARVN forces. In the 
following battle the South Vietnamese troops 
distinguished themselves. They held their positions 
with determination and 252 Viet Cong died. A 
secondary gain of Bear Chain/Fremont was the cap- 
ture of an extremely large rice stock. 

Late the afternoon of 24 July, BLT 2/3 Marines, 
searching the village of Don Que, less than a 
kilometer east of Route 555, captured a VC suspect, 
the only male found in Don Que. Company F receiv- 
ed sniper fire from the village just before they cap- 
tured the suspect. A search of the town turned up 
enormous quantities of rice. Villagers stated that the 
Viet Cong had told them to harvest their rice and be 
ready for the VC rice collectors who would arrive 
"within a few days." The final tally of rice was over 
37 tons. The Marines bagged it and flew it out in 
HMM-265's helicopters. 

The BLT Marines had helped maul the 806th VC 
Battalion and confiscated its rice supply. Its purposes 
achieved, the Bear Chain portion of the operation 
ended on 26 July and SLF Bravo went back to sea. 
Nine Marines and two corpsmen died on the opera- 
tion. 

Beacon Guide 

21 - 50 July 1967 

SLF Alpha's BLT 1 / 3 held a change of command 
at sea on 16 July, the day after it returned from 
Hickory II. Lieutenant Colonel Alfred I. Thomas 
took over from Lieutenant Colonel Wickwire. 
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas' first operation was 
Beacon Guide. Starting with a helicopter and surface 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189132 
LtCol Alfred I. Thomas, the new commander of BLT 
1/3, checks a fire plan diagram drawn on the back of 
a cardboard C-rations case by one of his staff officers 
during Operation Beacon Guide below the DMZ. 

assault. Beacon Guide was a search and destroy 
operation in the coastal region 18 miles southeast of 
Hue. The BLT's sweep was part of III MAF's continu- 
ing plan to maintain pressure on Viet Cong units in 
coastal I Corps. Beacon Guide was uneventful from 
its start on 21 July. Tangible results were negligible, 
and SLF Alpha reem barked on the afternoon of 30 
July. 

Kangaroo Kick/Fremont 

1 - 3 August, 3 - 21 August 1967 

August was a month of aggravating frustration for 
SLF Bravo and its new commander Colonel James G. 
Dionisopoulos.* Twenty-one operational days 
resulted in the death of only three enemy, while the 
SLF lost three killed and 44 wounded. 

Operation Kangaroo Kick, 1-3 August, was 
another search and destroy sweep over the now 
familiar sand dunes, graves, and rice paddies of the 
Viet Cong sanctuary region along the O Lau River, 



*Colonel Dionisopoulos replaced Colonel Wortman as the SLF 
Bravo commander as of 1 August. Colonel Wortman had served as 
the SLF commander since 1 September 1966. 



168 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



midway between Hue and Quang Tri. They had 
operated there on Operation Beacon Star in April- 
May and again in July on Bear Chain. Kangaroo 
Kick, almost a carbon copy of the two previous 
operations along the O Lau, precipitated the stan- 
dard VC reaction; they fled, only to return after the 
BLT departed. 

At 0800, 3 August, BLT 2/3 shifted to the 4th 
Marines' operational control and rejoined Operation 
Fremont. Operation Fremont assumed almost 
marathon proportions; it did not end until 31 Oc- 
tober. The BLT's mission during its second tour 
under the 4th Marines required relieving the 2d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines of its many and complicated 
duties, including providing security for Camp Evans, 
Hill 51, and Hill 674; interdicting enemy lines of 
communications in the nearby Co Bi-Thanh Tan 
Valley; detaching one rifle company to the 2d Bat- 
talion, 4th Marines for operational use by that bat- 
talion; providing security for road sweeps between 
the 4th Marines' perimeter and Route 1; providing 
one company for "Sparrow Hawk" rapid reaction 
missions; and being prepared to provide one com- 
pany for "rough rider" truck convoys between Phu 
Bai and Dong Ha. 

Respite from the Camp Evans routine came on 16 
August. The BLT, actually only Company F and 
Command Group Alpha reinforced by Company E, 
2d Battalion, 4th Marines, conducted a daylong 
sweep. The operation took place in the My Chanh 
area north of the O Lau River, the scene of recently 
completed Operation Kangaroo Kick. The sweep 
was in conjunction with ARVN units operation in 
the same area. 

BLT 2/3 lost one Marine killed and six wounded 
during the day's sweep. Unfortunately, a supporting 
tank returning to the 4th Marines command post ran 
over a mine, believed to have been made from a dud 
500-pound bomb. The blast killed four Marines and 
wounded five. Later that afternoon a tank retriever 
hit another mine six kilometers west of the disabled 
tank. The explosion wounded another six Marines. 
Tank problems continued; while trying to destroy 
the tank lost on the 16th, an engineer tripped still 
another exploding device; one more Marine died. 
The engineers finally destroyed the tank by 1530.* 



Another variation of the multiple duties shared by 
the BLT occurred on 18 August. Company F moved 
to Quang Tri to occupy the airfield there and to pro- 
vide a show of force. At 0930 19 August, Lieutenant 
Colonel Herich received authorization to start reem- 
barkation. The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines relieved 
BLT 2/ 3 of its Camp Evans duties and the SLF gladly 
went back to sea. Ill MAF released BLT 2/3 to CTG 
79.5 at 1600 22 August. 

The BLT commander, Lieutenant Colonel Herich, 
commenting on Kangaroo Kick and the 16 August 
Fremont sweep, expressed the growing frustration 
with operations along the O Lau: 

Operation Kangaroo Kick was ... in an area generally 
controlled by the enemy. Although this operation proved 
successful in completing the assigned mission, as in the 
past, the entire area . . . was reoccupied by the enemy as 
evidenced by his presence during the S&D [search and 
destroy] operation conducted by this BLT on 16 August 
1967 on Operation Fremont." 

Beacon Gate /Cochise 
7-11 August 1967, 11-27 August 1967 

At 0700 on 7 August, SLF Alpha started Opera- 
tion Beacon Gate by landing southeast of Hoi An 
along the coastal boundary of Quang Nam and 
Quang Tin Provinces. Intelligence reports fixed 
elements of the V25 Local Force Battalion and other 

A radioman from BLT 1/3 pauses in Operation 

Beacon Gate to look over a cow and a calf in a shed 

during a routine search of a Vietnamese village. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A650000 



*The term exploding device refers to all enemy jury-rigged 
mines. The devices ranged from trip-wired grenades to pressure- 
detonated, re-fused dud bombs. 




THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



169 



smaller VC units in the battalion's operational area. 
During the five-day southerly sweep, the Marines 
endured continuous sniper fire. The infantrymen 
made extensive use of armed UH-lE helicopters to 
suppress the snipers. Operation Beacon Gate ended 
on 11 August at 0800; the Marines killed only 12 
enemy soldiers. 

The same day, SLF Alpha shifted to the opera- 
tional control of Task Force X-Ray of the 1st Marine 
Division for the start of Operation Cochise. BLT 1 / 3 
made a heliborne assault from the Beacon Gate 
AOA into a landing zone approximately seven miles 
east of Que Son. There the battalion occupied block- 
ing positions to support elements of the 5th Marines 
which were attacking to the east. 

On 16 August, BLT 1/3 started search and destroy 
operations, also in an easterly direction, in conjunc- 
tion with the 5th Marines. The BLT made heavy con- 
tact with an enemy force late on the 16th, but the 
enemy broke off the engagement during the night. 
The rest of the first phase of Cochise consisted of 
sweep operations, still to the east, with contact 
limited to sniper fire. 

Phase II of Cochise began on 19 August. BLT 1/3 
transferred to the operational control of the 5th 
Marines. Enemy contact, as in Phase I, was negligi- 
ble, but the Marines uncovered several rice caches 
and an ammunition dump. Phase III opened on 25 
August. The BLT continued search and destroy 
operations northeast from Hiep Due to Que Son. 
It encountered only snipers. When the battalon ar- 
rived at Que Son on 27 August Cochise ended. 
The next day the BLT moved by helicopters to Chu 
Lai where it began reembarkation. Beacon 
Gate /Cochise produced good results for SLF Alpha; 
the BLT claimed 59 VC/NVA killed and 65 detained 
at a cost of nine Marines dead and 51 wounded. 

Belt Drive /Liberty 
27 August - 5 September, 1 - 4 September 1967 

Major Beard returned from hospitalization and 
reassumed command of BLT 2/3 on 23 August, 
replacing Lieutenant Colonel Herich. The same day, 
Major Gregory A. Corliss and his CH-46A squadron, 
HMM-262, landed on board the USS Tripoli to 
relieve the departing SLF helicopter squadron, 
HMM-265. Four days later, SLF Bravo was in action 
again. At 0545, 27 August, HMM-262 lifted the first 
elements of Company H from the Tripoli back to the 
familiar terrain of eastern Quang Tri Province. 

The Belt Drive operation's objective area was the 



densely vegetated high ground on both sides of the 
small Nhung River, less than nine kilometers south 
of Quang Tri City. The operation involved a spoiling 
attack against Communist units that could have in- 
terfered with the voting in Quang Tri City during 
the impending national elections. Small unit actions 
flared up during the next five days as the battalion 
encountered minor enemy formations, but no con- 
tact involved any determined enemy resistance. 

The battalion commander, Major Beard, reported 
two interesting enemy reactions: 

The use of demolitions by the enemy when attacking a 
defensive position ... is a tactic with which the battalion 
had not yet been confronted. It is believed that it was 
definitely designed to simulate mortar fire in order to keep 
the defenders down deep in their positions. The exploding 
charges were almost immediately followed by three or four 
probers armed with automatic weapons who sought to 
penetrate the perimeter. 

During this operation . . . the enemy failed to . . . leave 
a clean battlefield after an engagement. This situation is 
by all means contrary to their principle of battle and the 
first time in which the BLT was able to capture weapons 
and equipment without an immediate physical pursuit. 
Enemy KlAs, one WIA, and weapons ... lay undisturbed 
overnight in killing zones and were easily recovered at first 
hght on the morning following the encounter. On one oc- 
casion, two enemy KIAs and one weapon were recovered 
almost two days later by a patrol which swept an area in 
which an air strike had been run. These instances are 
reflections of the combat discipline and training of the 
enemy which the BLT engaged in its operating area.''' 

At 0800 1 September, the BLT once more shifted 
to the 4th Marines' operational control, this time to 
participate in Operation Liberty while holding Belt 
Drive in abeyance. The Liberty operation order 
assigned BLT 2/3 to sweep operations in the Hai 
Lang District of Quang Tri Province. The battalion 
was to assist the 4th Marines in blocking enemy ap- 
proaches to Route 1, as well as Quang Tri City. 
Liberty simply was a minor reorientation of Belt 
Drive, with the provision of a command structure 
change. 

At midnight 4 September, SLF participation in 
Liberty ended and Belt Drive resumed immediately. 
The last operational day, 5 September, involved 
moving the battalion and its supporting units out of 
the TAOR. By 2000, SLF Bravo had completed 
reembarkation. 

Four dead Marines and 59 wounded represented 
the price of Belt Drive and Liberty, but 19 Com- 
munists died. The BLT Marines captured one dazed, 
wounded NVA soldier on the morning of 1 
September. Unfortunately the BLT did not fully ex- 



170 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



ploit his knowledge and mistakenly evacuated him 
to Camp Evans rather than to the Tripoli. What he 
knew of enemy locations might have changed the 
outcome of Belt Drive. 

Trouble of a different nature developed during 
Belt Drive, trouble which caused serious problems 
not only for the SLFs, but for all Marine activities in I 
Corps. On 31 August, during a medical evacuation, 
the lead helicopter, a CH-46A, disintegrated in 
flight while en route to the Tripoli. The crew and 
their passenger died. The next day, another CH-46A 
experienced a similar failure at Marble Mountain Air 
Facility. These two similar accidents forced III MAP 
to restrict CH-46A missions to emergency categories. 
For all practical purposes, they were "down." In a 
matter of hours, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing lost 50 
percent of its helicopter capability, and the LPHs 
became little more than troop transports. 

A Change In Scenario — The 46s are Grounded 

The grounding of the CH-46As was a severe blow 
to the SLFs. SLF Bravo's CH-46A Squadron, 
HMM-262, was "down." SLF Alpha fared better, 
since HMM-362 was a UH-34D squadron. However, 
MAG- 16 recalled HMM-362, though another UH- 
34D squadron, HMM-163, replaced it only 4 days 
later. The USS Tripoli, the amphibious assault ship 
carrying SLF Bravo's helicopters, temporarily 
withdrew from ARG duties to ferry faulty helicopters 
to Okinawa for modification. The 1st Marine Air- 
craft Wing rescheduled all planned squadron rota- 
tions. Emergency requests prompted shipment of 10 
CH-53S and 23 more UH-34Ds from west coast U. S. 
ports, but they would not arrive until October. On 
31 August 1967, III MAF had 150 available transport 
helicopters, and the SLF could muster 39 more. The 
next day, as the result of the grounding order. III 
MAF counted only 23 CH-53s and 73 UH-34Ds, 
while SLF Alpha could provide another 17 UH-34s. 
Five squadrons of CH-46As could operate under ex- 
treme emergency conditions. 

Initially, SLF operations suffered from the 
helicopter strength reduction. Both landing forces, 
by necessity, operated as conventional ground units 
until resolution of helicopter allocations. SLF Bravo 
spent the rest of the year relying upon interim sup- 
port from HMM-463's CH-53s operating from Mar- 
ble Mountain. A detachment from HMM-262 re- 
mained on board the Tripoli to provide emergency 
CH-46A support for SLF Bravo. This detachment, 
known as the "Poor Devils," remained with SLF 



Bravo until the end of the year, though the rest of 
the squadron left in mid-October. 

Necessarily, SLF operations reflected the reduced 
flexibility and lift capability. To provide better sup- 
port for a landing force ashore, a new trend 
developed. The SLF BLTs would land, conduct a 
preliminary operation, and then shift to the opera- 
tional control of a Marine regiment operating in the 
same area. Though this represented a reasonable 
solution under the circumstances, during the fall of 
1967 SLF BLTs found themselves assigned to mis- 
sions ranging from fortification construction to road 
security, a far cry from the stoutly defended SLF 
tenets of early 1967. 

Beacon Point I Fremont I Ballistic Charge I Shelbyville 
I - 9 September 1967, 16 - 28 September 1967 

On 1 September SLF Alpha landed in Thua Thien 
Province on Operation Beacon Point for a southerly 
sweep of the by-now all too familiar "Street Without 
Joy." Snipers and surprise firing devices were the on- 
ly resistance encountered. At 1800 on 4 September, 
Lieutenant Colonel Kapetan's HMM-362 detached 
from the SLF and reverted to MAG- 16 control. For- 

A ruined church dominates the skyline as infan- 
trymen of Company D, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines 
move through a area of the coastal plain known to 
both the French and the Americans as the "Street 
Without Joy" in the quiet Operation Beacon Point. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189242 




THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



171 



tunately, the lack of enemy activity did not subject 
the BLT to the full impact of the loss of its assigned 
helicopters. The most tangible result of Beacon 
Point was the evacuation or destruction of more than 
35 tons of Viet Cong rice. After the BLT marched to 
an assembly area near Camp Evans on 5 September, 
Operation Beacon Point concluded at 0600 on the 
6th. 

Later that morning BLT 1/3 phased into Opera- 
tion Fremont, again under the operational control of 
the 4th Marines. Elements of the battalion trucked 
to their blocking and screening positions south of 
Quang Tri. As during Beacon Point, snipers were the 
only active enemy troops. 

A solution to SLF Alpha's helicopter needs occur- 
red on 8 September. Lieutenant Colonel Walter C. 
Kelly's HMM-163, UH-34D equipped, reported on 
board the USS Okinawa just in time to prepare for 
the following day's extraction. SLF Alpha dropped 
out of Fremont on 9 September. 

One week later, on the l6th, BLT 1/3 landed 
again. Operation Ballistic Charge involved a 
simultaneous heliborne and surface assault of an ob- 
jective area four miles southeast of Dai Loc. The 
operation consisted of a rapid sweep to the north 
followed by a detailed search and destroy sweep to 
the south along the track of the first northward 
move. Again, opposition consisted of Communist 
snipers, but during Ballistic Charge the battalion did 
detain 55 suspects and three confirmed prisoners. 

When Ballistic Charge ended on the 22nd, BLT 
1/3 shifted to the operational control of the 1st 
Marines for Operation Shelbyville. BLT 1/3's in- 
volvement started with a heliborne assault from the 
Ballistic Charge AOA to a landing zone four miles 
southeast of Dai Loc, close to the original Ballistic 
Charge objective area. While the 2d Battalion, 1st 
Marines occupied blocking positions to the east, and 
the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines blocked to the south. 
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred L Thomas' BLT 1/3 
swept the operational area in an easterly direction. 
Sniper fire was the only enemy response. 

On 25 September, the BLT reversed its axis of ad- 
vance and, after a night movement, crossed the 
railroad tracks paralleling Route 1 on the morning of 
the 26th. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines was on the 
BLT's left during the advance. Late that afternoon, 
Company B had a brief firefight with an enemy com- 
pany, but friendly artillery fire put a quick end to 
the engagement for SLF Bravo. Subsequent action 
remained limited to sniper fire. On the 28th the BLT 



marched out of the operating area to the Liberty 
Bridge, and then moved by trucks to Da Nang where 
it reembarked. CTG 79-4 assumed operational con- 
trol of SLF Alpha at 1715, 28 September. 

September was not a spectacular month for SLF 
Alpha. Twenty-two operational days resulted in 26 
Communists killed, 3 prisoners, and 108 detainees. 
To achieve this, eight Marines gave their lives and 
another 97 sustained wounds. 

Fortress Sentry I Kingfisher 

17-23 September 1967, 

27 September - U October 1967 

On 16 July 1967, the 9th Marines initiated Opera- 
tion Kingfisher near Con Thien. This lengthy opera- 
tion employed a force varying from three to six bat- 
talions. As Kingfisher progressed, a new enemy 
threat developed to the east in the I Corps coastal 
region. Identified NVA and VC units were operating 
between the coast and Dong Ha on the northern side 
of the Cua Viet River. To neutralize these Com- 
munist formations. III MAF planned to land SLF 
Bravo in this by-now familiar operational area for 
Operation Fortress Sentry. Previously, Operations 
Beacon Hill and Beau Charger swept the same 
locale. 

A significant operational change occurred follow- 
ing the untimely grounding of the CH-46s; SLF 
Bravo had to land by surface means. Ill MAF 
directed the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion to sup- 
plement the ARG landing craft. 

Poor visibility, rough seas, and generally bad 
weather hampered BLT 2/3's 17 September landing 
on the dunes bordering the "Street Without Joy." As 
usual, there was no resistance on the beach and only 
light contact as the battalion took its initial objec- 
tives. As the battalion moved north-northeast 
toward the DMZ, the 1st ARVN Division screened 
its left flank. Land mines damaged some amphibian 
tractors as the BLT moved inland, but contact re- 
mained light. 

On 23 September about 100 NVA soldiers attack- 
ed the battalion, but it broke up the probe with the 
assistance of helicopter gunships. On the morning of 
the 24th, the Marines engaged another enemy force 
near the village of An My, three miles east of Gio 
Linh. Prisoners revealed that the Communists had 
expected an attack from the south or southwest and 
the appearance of the BLT east of their position had 
been a complete surprise. 



172 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189273 
A Navy landing craft, utility (LCU) brings elements of the 2d Battalion, 5 d Marines 
from the USS Tripoli to the beach on 11 September for Operation Fortress Sentry, the 
day before the battalion phased into the 5 d Marine Division's Operation Kingfisher. 



The next morning at 0800 Fortress Sentry ter- 
minated and BLT 2/3 phased into Operation 
Kingfisher to the west.* SLF participation involved 
extensive sweep operations which resulted in only 
minor contact. On 10 October Lieutenant Colonel 
Henry Englisch relieved Major Beard as the BLT 
Commander. SLF Bravo phased out of Kingfisher on 
15 October. 

Bastion Hill! Medina I Liberty II/Fremont 
10-19 October 1967, 19-23 October 1967 

SLF Alpha, on board the ships of TG 79-4, engag- 
ed in an extensive rehabilitation effort, while SLF 
Bravo participated in Operation Kingfisher during 
the first nine days of October. 

On 10 October, the 1st Marines, having displaced 
from Da Nang to Quang Tri Province, initiated 
Operation Medina in the rugged hills of the Hai 
Lang Forest south of Quang Tri City. Medina was 
part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate enemy 
base areas. The Hai Lang Forest contained the Com- 
munist's Base Area 101, and elements of the 3th and 
6th NVA Regiments operated in and around the 
region. 

SLF Alpha's mission in Medina was to serve as a 
blocking force for the 1st Marines on the eastern 
edge of the operational area. BLT 1/3 made its 
helicopter move to assigned blocking positions on 
the 10th under the operational code name Bastion 
Hill. The landing met no opposition. Except for one 



*Chapter 8 covers Kingfisher in detail. 



sharp action between Company C and a company of 
North Vietnamese regulars early on the morning 1 1 
October, the battalion's contact with the enemy dur- 
ing Medina involved scattered fireflghts, incoming 
mortar rounds, and many grenade mines and booby 
traps. 

A major action related to Medina took place north 
of the SLF sector the day after the operation officially 
ened. There, the 6th NVA Regiment, moving 
eastward away from the SLF's former location, ran 
into the ARVN units participating in Operation Lam 
Son 138, an adjunct to Operation Medina. By the 
end of the day-long battle which followed, the 
ARVN reported 197 NVA troops killed. 

Immediately after Medina, BLT 1/3 moved south 
to new blocking positions west of Route 1 and the 
railroad between Hai Lang and Phong Dien to par- 
ticipate in Operation Liberty II/Fremont. Upon 
joining Liberty II/Fremont, operational control of 
BLT 1/3 passed from the 1st Marines to the 4th 
Marines. This operation sought to prevent the Com- 
munists from disrupting the South Vietnamese Na- 
tional Assembly elections. BLT 1/3 activity during 
the next five days involved squad and fire team 
patrols and encounters with the enemy. Liberty /Fre- 
mont ended on 23 October, and 1/3 moved by 
trucks to Camp Evans to prepare for its next opera- 
tion. Granite, which was only three days away. One 
of the most appreciated preparations was the issue of 
an extra poncho and poncho liner to the SLF 
Marines. The cold winter rains had come to I Corps. 

Neither Medina nor Liberty II/Fremont produced 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



173 



any telling results, at least in the opinion of SLF 
Alpha. Two weeks in the field that accounted for on- 
ly 9 confirmed enemy dead, 7 prisoners, and 11 
suspects, while attrition gnawed at the battalion's 
rolls during both operations. The casualties totaled 
10 Marines dead and 50 others wounded, 38 of 
whom required evacuation. 

Formation Leader /Liberty III Knox 

17-18 October, 18-24 October, 

24 October - 4 November 1967 

Only two days after leaving Operation Kingfisher, 
Lieutenant Colonel Englisch's BLT 2/3 began 
Operation Formation Leader in support of the 2d 
Battalion, 26th Marines. Envisioned as an area con- 
trol operation. Formation Leader focused on the 
stabilization of coastal Thua Thien Province east of 
Route 1, specifically Vin Loc and Phu Loc Districts. 
Because of the impending Vietnamese National 
Assembly elections, intelligence officers presumed 
that the Communists would concentrate disruptive 
efforts against these populated districts. 

The Communists did not respond. BLT 2/3's 
greatest problems during Formation Leader were 
nontactical. Because of the grounding of the 
CH-46s, all troop lifts from the USS Tripoli relied 
upon CH-53s from Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. 
Sadowski's HMH-463, operating from Marble 
Mountain. The lifts were entirely satisfactory, but 
realining the BLT's serial assignment tables for the 
larger helicopters gave Major Douglas W. Lemon's 
battalion S-3 office a good prelanding workout. Ad- 
ditionally, high seas and bad weather slowed the 
landing of attached heavy vehicles at Hue. In fact, 
some remained on board for the duration of the 
operation. 

There were no enemy contacts on the 17th and at 
1000 on the 18th, BLT 2/3 shifted to the 3d Marine 
Division's operational control. Formation Leader ter- 
minated and a new operation. Liberty II, started, 
but SLF Bravo's mission and operational area re- 
mained the same. The enemy still did not respond. 
The most significant incident was the sighting and 
subsequent artillery attack on an enemy squad late 
on the 21st. Sadly, the next day five Marines on a 
trash- burning detail suffered wounds from the ex- 
plosion of a grenade apparently dumped in the 
trash. Liberty II ended at 0800 on the 24th and 
Operation Knox started. 

Shifted to the operational control of the 7th 
Marines, the BLT moved by truck to a new assembly 



area 11 kilometers east of Phu Loc. There, it began 
sweep operations under the direction of the 7th 
Marines, and during the next 13 days the battalion 
experienced 12 enemy contacts, mostly mortar fire. 
The Marines killed two enemy soldiers, but Knox 
had a debilitating effect on BLT 2/3. Two Marines 
died in accidents and, of the 78 nonfatal casualties, 
only 15 were the result of enemy action. Fungus in- 
fections claimed 33 victims. Knox ended at 1000 on 
4 November; however, bad weather prevented reem- 
barkation. Instead all elements of the BLT moved to 
the Da Nang Force Logistic Command facility. 

Granite /Kentucky LI and Lll 
26 October - 4 November, 6-16 November 1967 

On 26 October, Operation Granite began for SLF 
Alpha with an early morning helicopterborne assault 
into the Hai Lang Forest. Granite was a two- 
battalion search and destroy operation in the region 
of Communist Base Area 114. The two assault bat- 
talions, the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, and SLF 
Alpha's BLT 1/3, conducted Granite under the 
operational control of the 4th Marines. 

The first day of Granite was uneventful for the 
Marines of BLT 1/3, but during the next nine days 
the enemy "continuously harassed the BLT . . . stay- 
ing within a few hundred meters . . .," and "night 
probes were made with a consistency not normally 
experienced. . . ."'' 

By the afternoon of the 30th some of the BLT 
Marines began to believe that Granite was a jinxed 
operation; supporting arms mistakes were becoming 
costly. A friendly air strike, short of target, wounded 
two Marines on the morning of the 29th. At dusk a 
short 60mm mortar round wounded another Marine, 
and just after midnight a short artillery round 
wounded still another BLT Marine. Fortunately, this 
was the last Granite casualty inflicted by friendly 
forces . 

BLT 1 / 3 never did find the enemy base area in the 
Hai Lang Forest, but it had no doubt of the presence 
of enemy troops there. When the battalion finished 
its sweep of the rugged terrain on 4 November, its 
journals revealed that it had called in 59 fixed-wing 
sorties and 652 artillery fire missions during the last 
10 days. The battalion captured five AK-47s and 
killed 17 Communists. The tangled vegetation of 
the Hai Lang hid the rest of the story. All of the BLT 
returned to Camp Evans before dark on 4 
November. Granite ended with three Marines dead 
and 24 wounded. 



174 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The SLF Alpha battalion did not stay at Camp 
Evans after Operation Granite. Just before noon on 6 
November, the division shifted BLT 1/3 to the 9th 
Marines' operational control. The BLT spent the rest 
of the day moving west to Cam Lo where it joined 
Operation Kentucky as the 3d Division reserve. Ken- 
tucky began on 1 November, the day after Opera- 
tion Kingfisher ended. The Kentucky area of respon- 
sibility, including Con Thien and Cam Lo, was 
nothing more than the eastern portion of the old 
Kingfisher TAOR. Kentucky was the assigned 
TAOR of the 9th Marines while Lancaster, to the 
west, was the 3d Marines' responsibilty. 

BLT 1/3 celebrated the 192nd birthday of the 
Marine Corps with an early morning move from Cam 
Lo north to attack positions less than two kilometers 
east of Con Thien. With the 1st Battalion, 1st 
Marines — comprised of only two companies and a 
command group — on its right, BLT 1/3 jumped off 
on Phase II of Kentucky the next morning. The 
BLT's mission involved making a sweep from east to 
west around the northern face of the Con Thien 
base. The 9th Marines conceived the operation as a 
spoiling attack to disrupt suspected Communist con- 
centrations around Con Thien. 

The Kentucky planners were right. At 0830 on the 
11th, Company D hit an enemy platoon from the 
east, the blind side of the well-dug-in and concealed 
Communist position. The Marines forced the sur- 
prised NVA to fight; seven died. That afternoon 
Company D hit another dug-in enemy unit. This 
one suffered a similar fate; six more NVA soldiers 
died. One survivor, a squad leader, told his captors 
that his battalion had been in the Con Thien area for 
about a month. Apparently, Kentucky, with ex- 
cellent timing, upset Communist plans for Con 
Thien. 

The SLF battalion's combat commitment to the 
opening phases of Kentucky ended the morning of 
12 November. The battalion marched back to Posi- 
tion C-3, a base area in the strong point /obstacle 
system, and then moved on to Dong Ha by truck. 
BLT 1/3 remained at Dong Ha, again as 3d Marine 
Division reserve, from 12 November until released 
by the 9th Marines at 0900 on the l6th, at which 
time the BLT started reembarkation. SLF Alpha, 
however, would see Kentucky again. 

While the BLT phased out of Kentucky, III MAF 
provided some relief for the loss of mobility caused 
by the grounding of CH-46s. On 15 November, 
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel M. Wilson's HMM-361 



flew its UH-34Ds out to the USS Iwojima to become 
the new SLF Alpha helicopter squadron. The reliable 
34's were a welcome addition, especially sinte cir- 
cumstances forced the BLT to rely on other sources 
for helicopter support during all of Kentucky II and 
III. 

Badger Hunt /Foster 
13 - 29 November 1967 

In Quang Nam Province, north of the concluded 
Beaver Cage area of operation, enemy contact during 
the fall of 1967 had been relatively light. The 1st 
Marine Division committed units of the 5th and 7th 
Marines to spoiling operations to prevent infiltration 
of the Da Nang rocket belt. In November SLF Bravo 
participated in Operation Badger Hunt as a con- 
tinuation of the spoiling tactics. The division con- 
ceived Badger Hunt as an amphibious operation to 
support the 7th Marines' Operation Foster which two 
spectacular VC raids triggered. On 2 November and 
again on the 8th, the Viet Cong raided the district 
headquarters and refugee settlements at Hieu Due 
and Dai Loc, approximately 15 miles south of Da 
Nang. The VC killed 22 civilians, wounded another 
42, and destroyed or damaged 559 houses. 

To rid the area of the Communist raiders, both 
operations focused on the river complex of Dai Loc 
District and the flat lands and foothills west of the 
Thu Bon River. SLF Bravo, under its new com- 
mander, Colonel Maynard W. Schmidt, and con- 
sisting of BLT 2/3, commanded by Lieutenant Col- 
onel Englisch, and a detachment of HMM-262, 
started Badger Hunt by landing at An Hoa. The 3d 
Battalion, 7th Marines, commanded by Lieutenant 
Colonel Roger H. Barnard, began Operation Foster 
west of Dai Loc and north of the Thu Bon River. 

There was little contact during either operation, 
with the exception of one company-sized engage- 
ment on the 29th. The Communists evaded both 
sweeps, heading for the hills to the west. The enemy 
suffered some casualties as reconnaissance teams and 
air observers called in air strikes and artillery fire on 
fleeing enemy groups. The final tally for Badger 
Hunt and Foster totaled 125 Communists killed and 
eight captured. Marines losses added up to 25 killed 
and 136 wounded. The most significant accomplish- 
ment of both operations, other than driving the 
enemy out of the area, was the destruction of most of 
the enemy's supporting installations in the region. 
The Marines destroyed over 6,000 bunkers, tunnels, 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



175 



and shelters and captured 87 tons of rice. Badger 
Hunt ended on 29 November. 



21 



Fortress Ridge 

24 December 1967 



On 1 November 1967, the 3d Battahon, 1st 
Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Max 
McQuown, learned it would be the new SLF Bravo 
BLT, in relief of the BLT 1/3. McQuown's battalion 
passed to the command of SLF Bravo on 1 December 
and the same day embarked for the Special Landing 
Force Camp at Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands 
for intensive training and equipment rehabilitation. 
On the 17th, the SLF sailed again, destination: I 
Corps. 

Fortress Ridge involved seaborne and heliborne 
landings on the beach area of Gio Linh District, 
seven kilometers south of the DMZ. After seizing 
four separate objectives, each company was to con- 
duct search and destroy operations in adjacent areas. 
Intelligence sources reported one battalion of the 
803d NVA Regiment, an unidentified main force 
battalion, and the K400 Local Force Company near 
the beach. The operation started on the morning of 
21 December as BLT 3/1*5 Company M, command- 
ed by Captain Raymond A. Thomas, landed in LVTs 
on Red Beach. Half an hour later. Company L land- 
ed on the north bank of the Cua Viet River, almost 
five kilometers to the southwest. HMM-262 took 
Companies I and K into two zones in the sand dunes 
four kilometers inland from Company M. 

Nothing happened during the morning, but at 
1324 hours Captain Lawrence R. Moran's Company I 
received small arms and mortar fire on the south side 
of the village of Ha Loi Tay. A heavy firefight ensued 
between Company I and Communist forces. Infor- 
mation from Company I indicated that they had met 
a sizable, well-entrenched enemy force. According- 
ly, the battalion mounted Company M on LVTs and 
moved it north on the beach side of the Gulf of 
Tonkin, where it could support Company I. When 
Company M arrived in the dune area north of 
Giem Ha Trung village, the Communists started 
shelling it with mortars. Rocket and artillery fire 
from Communists guns north of the Demilitarized 
Zone hit both companies. Darkness came early and 
Company I and the Communists broke contact. 
Company I established a defensive position to the 
west of Ha Loi Tay. Company M set up a perimeter 
defense in the area where it stopped that 
afternoon.*^ 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A190226 
Rain-soaked Marines of the Special Landing Force 
board a Navy medium landing craft (LCM-6) for the 
return trip to their assigned ships after an operation. 

Events of the 21st indicated that the Communists 
were in force behind the beach, north of the day's 
area of operation. Lieutenant Colonel McQuown re- 
quested permission from the SLF to conduct search 
and destroy operations 1,000 meters north of Objec- 
tive 1 and 1,000 meters inland from the beach. The 
SLF approved the plan, and shortly after 0800 on the 
22nd, Company M moved through the Communist 
positions that had opposed Company I. The latter 
company remained in position to support the ad- 
vance of Company M.'' By 0900 Company M 
discovered the first positive result of Fortress Ridge: 
three NVA bodies. Both Companies I and M con- 
tinued moving northward for the rest of the day, fin- 
ding quantities of enemy arms and equipment in 
abandoned positions. Company K, north of Objec- 
tive 3, had no contact. At dusk. Company L, four 
kilometers southwest of Companies I and M, came 
under small arms fire from across the Cua Viet, the 
last enemy action of the day. After a quiet night, the 
battalion resumed search and destroy sweeps on the 
23rd. The day remained uneventful. Company I 
found the major portion of the day's harvest of duds 
and enemy ordnance. 

Fortress Ridge concluded on the morning of the 
24th. By 1 100 all units were back on board ship for a 
contemplative Christmas Eve. In its first operation in 
its new role, SLF Bravo lost 10 shipmates and had 
another 27 wounded, but the Marines, however, had 



176 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



%'^ 



ff*' 



Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A371075 
Company I, Sd Battalion, 1st Marines continues to move northward with the rest of the 
battalion on 23 December as Operation Fortress Ridge along the coast draws to a close. 



counted 10 dead VC soldiers and observed enough 
enemy equipment on the battlefield to know they 
had hurt the Communists. In his after action report, 
Lieutenant Colonel McQuown summarized the 
results of 21-24 December, writing, "Operation For- 
tress Ridge provided the confidence and experience 
needed for a newly formed BLT to perform as a pro- 
fessional combat unit." 

Badger Tooth 

26 December 1967 - 2 January 1968 

Special Landing Force Bravo's last commitment in 
1967 was Operation Badger Tooth. The original plan 
called for the BLT to land one company by LVT to 
seize Landing Zone Finch, slightly more than three 
kilometers inland from the beach on the southern 
Quang Tri Province border. The rest of the battalion 
would follow by helicopter. The proposed objective 
area was on the extreme western side of the "Street 
Without Joy," and this time intelligence estimates 
placed as many as 1,700 enemy troops in the area of 
operation. 18 

The BLT commander, Lieutenant Colonel Max 
McQuown, described the plans for the operation: 

The scheme of maneuver called for a river crossing over 
the Song O Lau River once all the BLT Task Organization 
had landed from ARG shipping. After the river crossing 
the BLT was to conduct search and destroy operations 
through 14 towns and villages on a route running 
southwest from LZ Finch terminating at the town of Ap 



Phouc Phu, 11 kilometers from LZ Finch. Initial fire sup- 
port for the operation would be organic 81mm mortars, 
available on-call air support, and naval gunfire support. 
Once the BLT had closed on the first intermediate objec- 
tive, Thon Phu Kinh, 105mm howitzers from a platoon of 
the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines and a battery from the 1st 
Battalion, llih Marines would provide anillery support." 

Information relayed to the SLF by a U.S. Army 
liaison officer with nearby ARVN units changed the 
Badger Tooth plan. After the seizure of LZ Finch, 
the SLF directed the BLT to search new objectives 
consisting of the coastal villages of Thom Tham Khe 
and Tho Trung An. Intelligence officers suspected 
enemy forces hid there after evading ARVN opera- 
tions to the north and west. Once the BLT cleared 
the two villages, the SLF would continue with the 
originally planned sweep to the southwest. 

Badger Tooth started as Company L in LVTs land- 
ed over Green Beach at 1100 on 26 December and 
proceeded to LZ Finch. The operation continued as 
scheduled against very light opposition. Major David 
L. Althoffs "Poor Devils" from HMM-262 landed 
the last elements of the battalion at Finch by l4l5. 
Two hours later Company K suffered the first casual- 
ty of Badger Tooth when automatic weapons fire 
west of the LZ wounded a Marine. 

The SLF commander. Colonel Schmidt, accom- 
panied by the U.S. Army liaison officer to ARVN 
forces in the area, arrived at the battalion command 
post with orders for the BLT to change direction and 



THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



177 



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178 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



sweep the coastal villages of Tham Khe and Trung 
An. Company L received the mission of sweeping 
Tham Khe, with Company M in support. After mov- 
ing to the edge of the village in LVTs, Company L 
advanced northwest into the built-up area. By 1822 
Company L had cleared the first village and was well 
into Trung An. Both towns were clean; the Marines 
killed only three Viet Cong and detained four. The 
infantrymen found no evidence of the presence of 
Communist formations. By 1940, both Companies L 
and M had tied in for the night north and west of 
Tham Khe. The night was quiet. 

At 0700 on the 27th, both companies moved out 
on another sweep of the two villages. Company M 
moved north on a line parallel to Trung An so it 
could begin it's sweep of the village from north to 
south. Company L, with the mission to sweep Tham 
Ke, initially moved out to the northeast. Leading 
elements of Company L were almost into the south 
of Trung An when Company L's commander realiz- 
ed that his leading platoon had not turned south 
toward Tham Ke. Company L reversed direction im- 
mediately and started toward Tham Ke. 

Just as the leading platoon of Company L ap- 
proached the edge of the village, a concealed enemy 
force opened up with a devastating volume of fire 



from machine guns, rifles, RPGs, and mortars. The 
company immediately suffered many casualties and 
Captain Thomas S. Hubbel decided to pull his com- 
pany back and regroup for another attack. He re- 
quested supporting arms fires on Tham Ke while his 
company prepared for its new assault. After two air 
strikes, followed by naval gunfire. Company L 
assaulted the village. The enemy again met the 
Marines with withering defensive fires, killing Cap- 
tain Hubbel and his battalion "tac-net" radio 
operator. Lieutenant Colonel McQuown lost com- 
munications with the company for a short period un- 
til the acting company executive officer assumed 
command of Company L. 

During the period without radio contact with 
Company L, Lieutenant Colonel McQuown ordered 
Company M to move east and south and join the 
fight on the left flank of Company L. Company M 
reached its attack position and immediately came 
under heavy enemy fire. Lieutenant Colonel Mc- 
Quown realized at this time that the two companies 
were up against a major enemy force in well- 
prepared defensive positions. The search of Tham 
Ke the previous day had been inadequate. 

Lieutenant Colonel McQuown ordered Company I 
to move to the south of Tham Ke. He then re- 



Marines ofBLTS/l take cover as they fight to enter the village of Tham Khe on 27 
December after their first search of the village the previous day failed to detect the 
presence of the elaborate but well-camouflaged positions of the 116th NVA Battalion. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A190208 




THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 



179 



quested that the SLF land the tank platoon from the 
ARG ships. Next, he instmcted Company K to take 
the pressure off Companies L and M by attacking the 
south end of Tham Ke. After prepping the area with 
81mm mortar fire, Company K attacked against 
fierce resistance. 

Company K made no progress until the arrival of 
two Marine tanks at the company's position. Unfor- 
tunately, the two tanks had sustained water damage 
to their communications equipment during the 
landing and could not communicate with the infan- 
trymen except by voice.* This reduced their effec- 
tiveness; however, the tankers did knock out some 
enemy bunkers by direct fire from their 90mm guns. 
The inability to coordinate the tanks' fire with its 
own assault kept the company from making more 
than a limited penetration into the village complex. 
It did, however, gain a foothold in the village amid 
the enemy defenses. 

Companies K, L, and M continued their battle as 
night fell, Lieutenant Colonel McQuown expected 
the enemy would use the darkness to cover their 
escape. To counteract this, he moved Company I to 
the right flank of Company K where it could main- 
tain control over the eastern, or beach side, of Tham 
Ke. Company M, to the north, could cover part of 
the beach side of the village by fire. Lieutenant Col- 
onel McQuown also moved elements of both Com- 
panies L and K to the west of Tham Ke. Even though 
the extent of the area involved precluded a link-up 
of these elements, McQuown anticipated that his 
unit dispositions would block the enemy within the 
confines of the village. Such was not the case. 

The following morning, the 28th, Company K, 
already in the southern edges of Tham Ke, and 
Company I renewed their assault on the village. 
They quickly subdued the initial heavy enemy small 
arms fire and secured the village by noon. Mc- 
Quown's Marines spent the afternoon in a detailed 
search of Tham Ke. He recalled: 

This search revealed a village that was literally a defen- 
sive bastion. It was prepared for all-around defense in 
depth with a network of underground tunnels you could 



*Of the five tanks assigned to the BLT, only these two par- 
ticipated in this action. One tank was under repair at Da Nang; a 
second would not start and had to be left aboard ship. None ap- 
pear to have been properly waterproofed for landing. The third 
tank reportedly "submerged" during the landing and the other 
two, though operable, "received water damage on landing." BLT 
3/1 AAR, Operation Badger Tooth, dtd. I6jan68, p. 15 (Ar- 
chives, MCHC, Washington, D.C.). 



stand up in, running the full length of the village. Con- 
necting tunnels ran east and west. This tunnel system sup- 
ported ground level bunkers for machine guns, RPG's, and 
small arms around the entire perimeter of the village. Thus 
the NVA were able to defend, reinforce, or withdraw in 
any direction. All defensive preparation had been artfully 
camouflaged with growing vegetation. Residents of Tham 
Ke, questioned after the fight, disclosed that the NVA had 
been preparing the defense of this village for one year. 2° 

The search turned up numerous machine guns, 
RPGs, AK-47 rifles, and thousands of rounds of am- 
munition which clearly indicated that a major NVA 
force had defended the village, not local Viet Cong. 
A dying NVA soldier confirmed it; the enemy force 
had been the 776/^ NVA Battalion. The Marines 
also learned that ARVN forces operating northwest 
of Tham Ke had found over 100 bodies from the 
116th NVA Battalion abandoned in the sand dunes. 
The enemy force apparently had evacuated its 
casualties through the gap between L and K Com- 
panies during the night. 

At 1800 on the 31st, a New Year's truce went into 
effect and SLF Bravo prepared to return to its ships; 
the New Year's stand-down cancelled any further 
thoughts of attacking inland. Bad weather and 
rough seas slowed back-loading, but by 1130, 2 
January the BLT had left the "Street Without Joy." 
In the sharp fighting at Tham Khe, the Marines suf- 
fered 48 killed and 86 wounded; 31 enemy soldiers 
were known dead. Tham Khe was a bitter experience 
for the Marines of BLT 3 / 1 , but Badger Tooth was a 
poignant tactical lesson which would be re- 
membered in the clouded future of 1968. 

Ballistic Arch /Kentucky V/ Osceola 

24 - 27 November, 27 November - 29 December, 

30 December— continuing 1968 

Eight days after leaving Cam Lo, SLF Alpha land- 
ed again. While at sea, BLT 1/3's commanders 
changed, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas turned over 
his command to recently promoted Lieutenant Col- 
onel Richard W. Goodale. The 24 November 
landing. Ballistic Arch, was a helicopter and surface 
assault of Viet Cong-dominated villages on the nor- 
thern coast of Quang Tri Province, only seven 
kilometers south of the southern DMZ boundary. 

Ballistic Arch aimed at Communist sympathizers 
reported in and around the hamlet of Mai Xa Thi. 
The operation was a "walk through" for most of the 
battalion, but the opening minutes were tense for 
the crews of the LVTP-5s of the 4th Platoon, Com- 



180 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A190211 
Company I, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines rests on the 
beach on 28 December 1927 after it and Company K 
completed their assault through the village ofTham 
Khe and eliminated the rear guard of the 11 6th 
NVA Battalion, which had covered the withdrawal 
of the bulk of the enemy battalion during the night. 



pany A, 5th Amphibian Tractor Battalion and the 
embarked Marines of the BLT's Company A. 

Poor information on surf conditions presented the 
amphibian tractors with a serious problem. As they 
approached the beach, they started to take on more 
sea water than their pumps could handle; at times it 
was knee deep in the tractors. Two Marines, riding 
on top of a tractor washed overboard, but fortunate- 
ly others rescued them. At last the vehicles grounded 
and climbed the dunes of the Quang Tri coast. 
There were no losses. 

The expected contact did not materialize. The 
battalion commander. Lieutenant Colonel Goodale 
summarized the apparently poor intelligence which 
triggered Ballistic Arch, saying, "no fighting holes, 
bunkers, or fortifications of any kind were uncovered 
during the operation . . . The area appeared to be 
quite pacified and the indigenous personnel were 
very friendly."^' Ballistic Arch ended at noon on 27 
November, and BLT 1/3 immediately came under 
the 9th Marines' operational control. 

The BLT again phased back into the continuing 
Kentucky Operation. Its only active participation, 
however, was a sweep during the period 28-30 
November. On 2 December the battalion moved 
back to the A- 3 Strongpoint to provide security and 
engineer support for its construction. The Marines 
made a concerted effort to complete construction. By 



Rice paddy mud provides the only resistance to BLT 115 Marines after poor intelligence 
caused Operation Ballistic Arch to take place in a thoroughly pacified area of Vietnam. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189961 




181 



the time of the departure of BLT 1/3 on 29 
December, the Marines had completed the defensive 
wire and minefield and almost finished the bunker 
complex. 

Enemy contact during the stay at A-3 was very 
light. The battalion experienced small enemy probes 
until 1 1 December when supporting arms broke up a 
platoon-size Communist attack. Enemy ground ac- 
tion dropped off appreciably afterward. Enemy ar- 
tillery, mortar, and rocket fire were the main deter- 



rent to the Marines' engineering effort at A-3. From 
2 December until the 29th, 578 rounds landed on 
the position. Phase V of Kentucky concluded on 29 
December. BLT 1/3 made a combined tactical foot 
and motor march back to Quang Tri Airfield com- 
plex. The last two days of December passed as the 
BLT prepared to relieve the 2d Battalion, 4th 
Marines, then involved in Operation Osceola. The 
end of the year brought no slowing of the planned 
tempo of SLF operations. 



CHAPTER 12 

Pacification 

The Problem Defined— County Fair 
Marine Grass-Roots-Level Participation — Reporting and Evaluation 



The Problem Defined 

Military commanders in Vietnam realized that 
operations against Communist main force units, 
alone, could not win the war. These operations could 
only provide a shield of security behind which the 
South Vietnamese Government and its allies could 
implement a Revolutionary Development or 
pacification program, a program aimed solely at win- 
ning the support of the people. 

Pacification is a relatively simple concept; the pro- 
cess and means of accomplishment are extremely 
complex. Because of differing interpretations and 
frequent interchanges of the terms "pacification," 
"revolutionary development," and "nation 



building," ComUSMACV issued a memorandum, 
"Clarification of Terms," which listed the following 
definitions: 

Pacification is the military, political, economic, and 
social process of establishing or reestablishing local govern- 
ment responsive to and involving the participation of the 
people. It includes the provision of sustained, credible ter- 
ritorial security, the destruction of the enemy's 
underground government, and the initiation of economic 
and social activity capable of self-sustenance and expan- 
sion. The economic element of pacification includes the 
opening of roads and waterways and maintenance of lines 
of communication important to economic and military ac- 
tivity. 

Revolutionary development, the leading edge of 



An infantryman from Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines demonstrates the need for 
a viable pacification program by holding up an empty bulgur wheat sack found in a 
North Vietnamese Army unit's bunker destroyed by the battalion on 26 March 1967. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, March 1967 




182 



PACIFICATION 



183 



pacification, is the formalized Government of Vietnam 
program, under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Revolu- 
tionary Development, in specified hamlets generally 
within RD campaign areas. It includes the local security for 
these hamlets and the political, economic, and social ac- 
tivities at that level. 

Nation building is the economic, political, and social ac- 
tivity having an impact nationwide and /or in urban 
centers. It is related to pacification in that it builds on the 
results of pacification and contributes to the estabhshment 
of a viable economic and social community.' 

Since the beginning of United States involvement 
in Vietnam, security for the rural population re- 
mained the basic requirement for pacification, and 
how best to provide this security was the subject of 
continuing debate between American and Viet- 
namese officials. The military side contended that 
the problem was a fundamental military issue, that 
physical security of the contested area must be 
established before starting any developmental pro- 
grams; civil officials, on the other hand, viewed the 
problem as a political issue, stating that political, 
economic, and social developmental projects would 
make greater inroads on Communist influence and 
therefore should have greater priority. The con- 
trasting views led to the initiation of programs which 
often resulted in duplication, as well as confusion on 
the part of the Vietnamese offices charged with im- 
plementing and administering them. To help 
already overloaded local administrators, MACV 
dispatched more American advisors to the provinces, 
but, unfortunately, in many cases their presence ac- 
tually retarded pacification progress. Zealous ad- 
visors often stifled local initiative. 

At the same time, MACV experienced equally 
perplexing problems. While MACV perceived that 
security was the first prerequisite for a successful pro- 
gram, it had difficulty implementing a sound, 
balanced management system. As in the civilian pro- 
grams, military civic action concepts evolved by trial 
and error. 

The Vietnamese had experimented with pacifica- 
tion programs since 1954. Based on past experience, 
a new program emerged late in 1965. The Viet- 
namese adopted the concept of the armed propagan- 
da cadre as the basis for the national program. The 
civil side of the program began slowly in 1966, 
primarily because of the shortage of trained cadre, 
but the Vietnamese Government provided en- 
thusiastic direction and the prospects for success were 
optimistic. 

In February 1966, the Honolulu Conference align- 



ed many of the diverse American and Vietnamese 
opinions and actions. Top-level U.S. and Viet- 
namese policy makers agreed to consider the civilian 
aspects of the war as important as the military effort. 
This summit changed the system of priorities and 
caused the initiation of additional programs and 
provision of more of the requisites needed to wage 
what many called the "other war." Perhaps the most 
significant outcome of the conference was President 
Johnson's decision that only one person would direct 
United States pacification efforts in Vietnam. This 
led to the establishment of the Office of Civil Opera- 
tions (OCO) in late autumn 1966. This new 
organization brought the various U.S. civilian 
pacification programs under the control of a senior 
official who, in turn, reported directly to the deputy 
ambassador. 

The South Vietnamese Government assigned the 
overall responsibility for the Vietnamese side of the 
national pacification plan, the Revolutionary 
Development Program, to Major General Nguyen 
Due Thang, who headed the newly created Ministry 
of Revolutionary Development. A reorganization of 
the Vietnamese war cabinet on 12 July 1966 gave 
Thang direct supervision over the Ministries of 
Revolutionary Development, Agriculture, Public 
Works, and Interior. At this juncture, Thang gained 
authority to direct coordination and integration of 
civil /military Revolutionary Development activities 
at all echelons of the government. 

The main operational element for the civil aspects 
of Revolutionary Development was the 59-man 
Revolutionary Development cadre team. The 
government recruited these teams from within each 
district, trained them at the National Cadre Training 
School at Vung Tau, and returned them to their pro- 
vinces for assignment to a district chief for work in 
one of his hamlets. Their first task involved the 
security and defense of their assigned hamlets. Once 
they established security they started working with 
the people to create a better way of life within the 
hamlet. 

In September, to ensure military assistance for the 
program, the South Vietnamese appointed General 
Thang to the position of assistant for territorial af- 
fairs and pacification to the Chief, Joint General 
Staff. Major functions of his position included 
development of policies and concepts for military ac- 
tivities in support of revolutionary development and 
supervision of the employment, maneuver, and 
training of regional and popular forces. The primary 



184 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Revolutionary Development role of the military 
forces required achieving a level of security which 
would permit the accomplishment of civil activities 
and subsequent nation building. The 1967 Combin- 
ed Campaign Plan assigned the primary mission of 
supporting the Revolutionary Development program 
to ARVN forces, thus, by the end of 1966, the South 
Vietnamese Government had taken major steps to 
consolidate its pacification programs.* 

As the Vietnamese reorganized, the Americans 
also continued to reform their own programs. The 
Office of Civil Operations (OCO) confidently 
reported that it had integrated the pacification effort 
with military operations and was making significant 
progress in implementing the various programs. One 
of the most important OCO contributions was the 
appointment of four regional directors, one for each 
corps area. These four men had full authority over all 
American civilians in their respective regions and 
reported directly to the director of OCO; previously 
there had been no central management of the 
various pacification programs. During the spring of 
1967, the United States realized that it needed a 
stronger organization and placed all of the various 
components of the American pacification effort, 
both civilian and military, under a single manager, 
ComUSMACV. The name of the new organization 
was Civil Operations and Revolutionary Develop- 
ment Support (CORDS). 

On 23 May, MACV Directive 10-12 implemented 
CORDS. Ambassador Robert Komer became 
General Westmoreland's deputy for CORDS with 
full responsibility for the entire program. The direc- 
tive specifically charged the ambassador with "super- 
vising the formulation and execution of all plans, 
policies and programs, military and civilian, which 
support the GVN's revolutionary development pro- 
gram and related programs." In addition, the direc- 
tive provided for the integration and consolidation 
of all OCO and revolutionary development support 
activities at all levels: nation, corps, province, and 
district. The OCO regional director became the 
deputy for CORDS to each corps commander, while 
the senior provincial and district advisors became 
CORDS representatives at those levels. Accommoda- 
tion of this extensive program proved to be a simple 
matter in I Corps, chiefly because the I Corps Coor- 

*For a detailed description of the Revolutionary Development 
Program during 1966 and the development of the Combined 
Campaign for 1967, see Shulimson, U. S. Marines in Vietnam, 
1966. 



dinating Council had performed a very similar func- 
tion for 20 months. 

By early August 1965, Marine civic action had ex- 
panded to the point that coordination with other 
United States agencies in I Corps became imperative 
for the effective support of the Vietnamese pacifica- 
tion program. General Walt ordered the creation of 
the I Corps Joint Coordinating Council. The council 
drew its members from all major U.S. and Viet- 
namese agencies in I CTZ, including representatives 
from both Marine and ARVN military staffs. When 
the council met on 30 August 1965, it was the first 
working regional council of its kind in South Viet- 
nam. This organizational step preceded the forma- 
tion of subcommittees for public health, education, 
roads, refugees, distribution, and police. Although 
the Joint Coordinating Council had no directive- 
making authority or material resources of its own, 
the influence of its members made it the most effec- 
tive group for carrying out the total pacification pro- 
gram in I Corps.* By the fall of 1966, the success of 
the council encouraged and assisted the formation of 
other joint coordinating councils (JCC). These JCCs 
were independent of the corps-level council, but had 
similar staffs and missions. As 1967 began, growing 
Vietnamese participation in council activities and 
sponsored programs indicated the value of the JCC 
approach. 

During 1965 HI MAF created a fifth general staff 
section, G-5, to coordinate all civic action programs. 
The Marines established G-5/S-5 sections in every 
Marine division, regiment, and battalion serving in 
Vietnam. At the same time, to prevent overlap of 
projects. III MAF assigned responsibility for the 
coordination of civic action in particular 
geographical areas to specific units. This enabled 
them to coordinate all programs within their areas 
with local government officials. By the end of 1966, 
these two steps formed a sound base for both the III 
MAF and Vietnamese pacification programs. 

Following the formation of CORDS, many of the 
functions of the III MAF G-5 section shifted to the 
CORDS representatives at III MAF Headquarters. 
Such a shift inevitably caused some friction between 
the two offices. Among them was the tendency of 



*Vice Admiral Thomas R. Weschler wrote that General Walt's 
leadership was the key element that molded the various agencies 
into a team dedicated to a successful pacification campaign. Vice 
Admiral Thomas R. Weschler, Comments on draft ms, ISjunSl 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



PACIFICATION 



185 



the CORDS staff to report through their own chan- 
nels directly to Saigon, bypassing III MAF. Despite 
daily meetings, the G-5 section believed that much 
information from the CORDS system was not 
reaching the G-5. "As CORDS took on more of the 
responsibility for pacification from the G-5," wrote 
Colonel James L. Black, who served as III MAF G-3, 
"coordination among the [III MAF] G-3, G-2, and 
G-5 became almost non-existent." Ill MAF sharply 
reduced the size of the G-5 section and it almost in- 
tegrated into the CORDS staff. However, in spite of 
being the smallest staff section in III MAF, G-5 re- 
mained charged with major requirements to support 
the pacification effort. ^ 

The G-5 officer found a number of obstacles in his 
path. Even though the Army's 29th Civil Affairs 
Company supported III MAF, the growth of CORDS 
blurred the command relationship between III MAF 
and the company. Further, Colonel Black did not 
believe the company's task organization properly 
reflected its mission. Another limiting factor was the 
lack of understanding of civil affairs among Marines 
assigned to G-5/S-5 staffs at all command levels. 
Few had been school trained in their duties and had 
to learn on-the-job. Those with formal school train- 
ing had to learn to shift their thinking from 
theoretical, classroom concepts to the practical situa- 
tion at hand. The learning process slowed progress in 
the III MAF civil affairs effort. 

The importance placed upon civic action required 
the III MAF G-5 to submit a daily civic action report 
to FMFPac headquarters. The report included such 
topics as the amount of lumber, clothing, garbage, 
and other material distributed to the Vietnamese 
people during the last 24 hours. This classified 
report could not be delayed, not even by heavy 
message traffic during peak operational periods. "If 
this report did not reach FMFPac within 24 hours," 
wrote Colonel Black, "you would receive a 'nasty' 
phone call [from Hawaii]." The reports problem 
ended, according to Colonel Black, in the spring of 
1968.5 

County Fair 

Throughout 1967, the Marines concentrated on 
the basics of pacification development. In accor- 
dance with the Honolulu Declaration of 1966, the 
Marines directed much of their effort at the expan- 
sion and refinement of the pacification program they 
had initiated earlier. For their programs to succeed, 
the Marines needed to provide secure conditions in 
which the Vietnamese people could live and in 



which all levels of legal government could function 
without enemy interference. To this end, the 
Marines' main objective was the isolation of the VC 
from the people, both physically and economically. 
Golden Fleece operations, in which Marines provid- 
ed security during rice harvests, had proven suc- 
cessful in protecting the villagers' rice crops since 
September 1965; however, they occurred only dur- 
ing the two or three yearly harvest seasons. On the 
other hand, the war on the VC infrastructure was a 
daily affair. 

The source of the enemy's strength was the local 
guerilla organization which operated in 5- to 10-man 
cells within each hamlet. Each cell acted as a 
clandestine de facto government which worked to 
foster Communist influence, while simultaneously 
undermining the influence of local officials and the 
central government. If the local population was not 
sympathetic to the Communist cause, the guerillas 
resorted to intimidation and terror to control in- 
habitants. Each guerrilla acted as an agent between 
the people and the VC main force units which need- 
ed food, recruits, and intelligence. Simply stated, 
pacification involved eliminating the agents and 
thus reducing the large Communist units to the 
status of conventional forces groping around in 
hostile territory. Furthermore, with the destruction 
of the guerrilla infrastructure, the seeds of RVN in- 
fluence could fall on neutral, if not completely fer- 
tile, ground. 

The Marines recognized these realities during the 
early stages of the campaign and devised several 
techniques to combat the guerrillas. One of the most 
successful, initiated in 1966, was the County Fair 
concept. Basically, County Fairs involved elaborate 
cordon and search operations conducted by combin- 
ed ARVN and Marine forces. Since the South Viet- 
namese government needed to know who belonged 
where, the ARVN handled the population control 
aspects, as well as the actual searching of the targeted 
village, while the Marines usually remained in the 
background, providing tactical "muscle." 

Once the combined commanders selected an 
operational area. Marine units moved in at night and 
estabUshed a cordon around the designated village 
to prevent the VC, if any, from escaping or gaining 
reinforcements. At dawn, ARVN troops entered the 
village, rounded up the inhabitants, apologized for 
the inconvenience, and announced that they intend- 
ed to search the hamlet. While district and village 
leaders mingled with the people explaining what was 



186 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370115 ' 
Vietnamese peasant women hold out their straw hats for the mixture of ham and rice 
prepared by the 1st Battalion, 1th Marines during a "County Fair" operation in May. 



happening, other officials checked identification 
cards and took a census. 

The allies tried to make the experience as pleasant 
as possible. They set up a temporary dispensary to 
provide the villagers with free medical and dental 
care. They fed the people, including providing can- 
dy and other delights for the children. Entertain- 
ment featured movies. Jive presentations, and band 
concerts which helped to cover the serious business 
of uprooting the Communists. These organized 
amusements provided the name "County Fair." 

While the distractions continued in the assembly 
area. South Vietnamese troops systematically comb- 
ed the village. Often the guerrillas slipped into tun- 
nels or spider holes at the first sign of approaching 
troops, but if the troops discovered the underground 
hiding place they literally smoked out the VC. On 
some operations, the searchers used portable 
blowers, called "Mighty Mites," to saturate the shafts 
with tear gas and smoke.* If the guerrillas chose to 
run away, they encountered the Marine cordon 
around the village. 

While these operations proved successful. County 
Fairs were not an end in themselves. When Marine 



*The term Mighty Mite should not be confused with the similar 
nickname for a light vehicle used as a jeep by Marine units in the 
1960s. 



and ARVN units left the area, they took with them 
the security essential to the survival of pro- 
government villages. Even if the allies eradicated 
the existing VC infrastructure, their departure 
created a vacuum into which other guerrilla cadre 
could filter. During a survey conducted by Marine 
civil affairs personnel in the Chu Lai area, most 
civilians interviewed stated that they appreciated the 
medical care, the clothing, the new schools, and all 
of the other benefits, but what they really wanted 
was protection from the Viet Cong. Revolutionary 
Development teams and Popular Forces could only 
partially remedy the situation because of their 
limited training and armament. The Marines rea- 
lized these facts, but they also recognized the unex- 
ploited potential which the popular forces offered: 
total familiarity with local conditions, loyalties, 
needs, and every physical characteristic of their home 
villages. Marine recognition of this potential, and ef- 
forts to develop it, produced one of the most pro- 
ductive innovations in I Corps, the Combined Ac- 
tion Program. 

Marine Grass-Roots-Level Participation 

The birth of the Combined Action Program occur- 
red in the summer of 1965 in Lieutenant Colonel 
William W. Taylor's 3d Battalion, 4th Marines as a 
means of controlling the population around the Phu 



PACIFICATION 



187 



Bai combat base. The battalion civil affairs officer, 
Captain John J. Mullen, Jr., provided the original 
inspiration. Understanding the Vietnamese culture, 
Mullen realized that the militia troops living in the 
villages were the key to local security. Rural Vietna- 
mese had an orientation toward families, ancestors, 
and hamlets; they were not strong nationalists. Most 
farmers spent their entire lives within a 10-mile 
radius of their hamlets. PFs usually performed poor- 
ly if moved to another district, but in defense of 
their own homes they could be tough. In the war 
with the VC, motivation alone could not overcome 
superior firepower and experience. Mullen believed 
the Marines could add the necessary ingredients and, 
given proper leadership and firepower, the PFs not 
only could, but would stand up to the VC. 

Lieutenant Colonel Taylor agreed with Mullen's 
idea and, on 3 August 1965, he sent four squads of 
Marines to work with six platoons of PFs in the three 
villages northwest of his perimeter. First Lieutenant 
Paul R. Ek, who spoke Vietnamese, became the 
company commander and a PF lieutenant worked as 
his executive officer. Under this leadership, the pro- 
gram got underway. 

Lieutenant Ek's success with combined action 
prompted III MAF to expand the program. General 
Walt, a strong advocate of the pacification program, 
approved of the results at Phu Bai and, in January 
1966, decided to initiate similar programs at Da 
Nang and Chu Lai.* General Walt's initiating order 
stated : 

1. ... the Commanding General, I Corps has concurred 
in III MAF proposal to expand the Marine-Popular Force 
program throughout all Marine enclaves and has published 
instructions to subordinates throughout I Corps. 

2. Action will be taken immediately to establish liaison 
through Province, District, and down to village /hamlet as 
required to take operational control of Popular Force units 
within a zone of action in accordance with reference (b). In 
each case ensure that local officials thoroughly understand 
the program and have been apprised of General Thi's let- 
ter. Specifically, presentations will include that Marine 
forces intend to establish communications to Popular Force 
units, provide supporting arms, reserve forces, and plan to 
place Marines with selected Popular Force Platoons. Where 
possible Popular Force units in proximity to each other will 



*Captain Mullen, who replaced Lieutenant Ek upon the latter's 
rotation in September 1965, and several members of the original 
company assisted and advised in the establishment of the second 
unit. Lieutenant Colonel JohnJ. Mullen, Jr., Comments on draft 
ms, 21May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, 
D.C.) 



be organized into Combined Action Companies.* In 
discussions, stress the mutual benefits of the program in 
that Marines can profit from Popular Forces knowledge of 
area, language, and people while the Popular Force will 
receive valuable training and will be provided additional 
security. Of primary importance is the fact that this rela- 
tionship will provide a basis for better understanding and 
building of mutual respect between our forces. In presen- 
ting the program to RVN officials, avoid the use of the 
terms "operational control" by substituting "cooperation 
or coordination." 

3. Insure a thorough indoctrination on the overall aims of 
programs to all concerned. These are to improve the effec- 
tiveness and prestige of the Popular Forces with a view to 
increasing recruitment to build up this critically 
understrength force. The importance of the Popular Forces 
to provide security for rear areas, which will allow 
Marine/ ARVN combat forces to move forward, cannot be 
overstressed . At every opportunity when dealing with 
GVN officials, highlight the Popular Force problem and 
assess the adequacy of the program at local levels to im- 
prove this force. 

4. Upon receipt of this letter, report: 

a. Location of Popular Force units in area of operation. 

b. Assigned mission of each unit. 

c. Commander. 

d. Personnel present for duty. 

e. Amount and condition of equipment. 

f. Uniform requirements. 

g. Plans for implementing program. 

5 . After the initial report submit summary of operations 
conducted and evaluation of the program on a weekly 
basis.' 

By January 1966, there were seven combined ac- 
tion platoons in existence; by July, 38; and by the 
beginning of 1967 the number had risen to 57. Ill 
MAF planned still more. 

While it was important to have the support of III 
MAF command levels for combined action, the suc- 
cess or failure of the venture ultimately rested on the 
shoulders of 19- and 20-year-old Marines. Combined 
Action units needed a special Marine; a man without 
the necessary motivation, understanding, and com- 
passion could do more harm than good. All Marines 
in the original program were volunteers with at least 
four months' combat experience, a favorable recom- 
mendation from their commanding officer, no 
record of disciplinary action, and, all important, no 
discernible racial prejudices. These men were the 



*The name of these units soon changed to Combined Action 
Platoons (CAPs). The Marines found that the acronym "CAC" 
was, under certain pronunciations, a vulgarity in the Vietnamese 
language. 



188 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



foundation upon which the Marine side of the pro- 
gram was built. 

By mid- 1967, III MAF had compiled statistics 
which illustrated the dedication of Marines in the 
Combined Action Program. The average Marine par- 
ticipant had a 75-percent chance of being wounded 
once during his tour and a 30-percent chance of be- 
ing hit a second time. The ultimate statistic, those 
who would die, was just under 12 percent. Despite 
these grim mathematical reminders, over 60 percent 
of the Marines volunteered for at least one six-month 
extension to their normal 12-month tours in Viet- 
nam. The high extension rate was a strong indication 
to their leaders that the Combined Action Program 
had a better than average chance of success. 

The basic operating unit of the program, the com- 
bined action platoon (CAP), consisted of a l4-man 
Marine squad and a Navy corpsman, integrated into 
a nominal 35-man Popular Forces platoon. The ideal 
scenario following establishment of a combined ac- 
tion unit was as follows: 

Initially, there was only one objective, around- 
the-clock security of their assigned hamlet. The first 
days were the most dangerous, the period when unit 
cohesiveness and proficiency were most ques- 
tionable. The Marines first had to teach the PFs to 
defend themselves. The Marines provided the 
knowledge of tactics and weaponry while the PFs 
contributed their knowledge of the terrain and local 
conditions. In the field the Marine squad leader, 
normally a sergeant, usually controlled the unit; but 
during the daily routine, cooperation replaced com- 
mand. As the PFs' confidence and skill grew, CAP 
patrolling became more aggressive. Continuous 
sharing of experience gained through daily, side- by- 
side participation in training and patrolling created 
truly effective, integrated platoons and a new degree 
of reliable hamlet security. As the strength of the 
CAP grew, the peoples' willingness to accept the 
unit also increased. Then, and only then, could 
lasting social action within the hamlets become a 
reality. 

Time worked paradoxically for the CAP Marines. 
To ensure their own survival, they had to quickly 
transform the CAP into a cohesive defense force, but 
the opposite was the case in their dealings with the 
people. The Vietnamese, possessing a wariness of 
outsiders typical of peasant societies, would not let 
the Marines force their way into the existing social 
structure of the hamlet. Acceptance took time. 
Usually the breakthrough in acquiring community 



SPI ^ 'IC; 



'"^"Ma^'^' 










>^#-H.,-:r.| 



r.^ 



V-^- ".■■ -^ 



3d MarDiv ComdC, June 1967 
This Marine, though wearing starched, pressed 
trousers and shined boots for the visiting 
photographer, wields a hoe alongside a Popular 
Forces militiaman to demonstrate the importance of 
cooperative effort in the Combined Action Program. 

acceptance came from the hamlet children. Since the 
CAP compound was a natural gathering place for the 
naturally curious and uninhibited children, they ac- 
cepted the Marines and, in turn, gained the friend- 
ship of the Americans. In most cases, hamlet 
children became the most significant factor in bridg- 
ing the cultural gap. As parents began to know and 
understand the Marines through their own children, 
empathy could develop which aided the establish- 
ment of common purposes. 

This approach was not without its pitfalls, as Navy 
Chaplain Vincent T. Capadonno, a former mis- 
sionary on Taiwan, pointed out in a series of lectures 
to Marine units at Chu Lai in the summer of 1966. 
Young American males, he said, love to play with 
children — for about 15 minutes. Then they tire of 
the children and start pushing them away, 
sometimes having to get rough before the children 
realize the game is over. Further, in Vietnamese pea- 
sant society, where infant and child mortality were 
high, children, though loved by their parents, had 
little social standing. Among the Vietnamese, social 
standing was a matter of age, with the elderly having 
the highest, most respected status. The American 
cultural emphasis on youth could lead young 
Marines to concentrate on young Vietnamese and ig- 



PACIFICATION 



189 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189582 
Popular Forces militiamen and Marines work together to improve village defenses by 
building a traffic control gate over a bridge near the combined action platoon's position. 



nore the village elders, a situation that could create 
resentment within the village power structure.^ 

In areas of strong Communist influence, the 
development of a close relationship was even more 
difficult. The Marines had to counter VC propagan- 
da which pictured them as blood-thirsty mercenaries 
who burned, raped, and pillaged, but participants 
managed to overcome these obstacles when their ac- 
tions disproved the Communists' claims. They had 
to live, work, and eat with the people, respect their 
customs, and treat them as equals. The CAP corps- 
men also helped to narrow the gap by providing 
rudimentary but vital medical assistance. Most im- 
portantly, the Marines' approach had to demonstrate 
that they genuinely cared about the well-being of 
the villagers. 

Once the people accepted the Marines, true civic 
action could start, but again the Americans could 
not take charge. For civic action to be effective, it 
had to reflect what the people sincerely wanted, as 
well as what they were willing to support. Once 
everyone determined these needs, only the imagina- 
tion and initiative of the Marines and the villagers 
limited the extent of the program. The range of pro- 
jects accomplished by Marines, PFs, and citizens 
working together ranged from school construction to 
animal husbandry. Many desired civic action projects 
exceeded the material resources available to the 
CAPs, but they could turn to the vast inventories of 



agencies as USAID and CARE. Local Marine com- 
mands also helped by providing the hamlets 
available construction material, machinery, tools, 
and clothing. 

When they demonstrated military proficiency and 
gained popular support, the CAPs could apply 
greater pressure on the VC. By denying the guerrillas 
access to the hamlets, the defense force curtailed the 
Communists' logistic and manpower sources. The 
CAPs also established antiguerrilla intelligence nets 
in their immediate areas. When the people realized 
that to help the CAPs was to help themselves, they 
provided the Marines information on VC 
movements, storage areas, and the locations of 
mines and booby traps.* Armed with this in- 
telligence, the CAPs managed to inflict heavier 
casualties on the Viet Cong, driving them further 
from the mainstream of hamlet life. 

The CAPs also attempted to erode Communist 
strength through persuasion. They aimed this effort 
primarily at the relatives of the local guerrillas. The 
Marines entreated the resident families of known VC 
to ask their kin to give up the VC cause, pointing out 
that sooner or later the CAPs would find and 
possibly kill them. This approach not only ac- 



*The Marines rarely, if ever, patrolled without the PFs, because 
the Vietnamese, being more familiar with the area, could spot 
mines and booby traps more readily than the Americans. 



190 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



celerated enemy defections, but it also reinforced the 
permanency of the CAP program in the minds of the 
peasants. 

All of these activities contributed to the growth of 
the villagers' belief in their ovi^n government and 
their allies. Perhaps the most important factor in 
promoting confidence in the program was the fact 
that the Viet Cong had not regained control of any 
area in which a CAP had established security. The 
presence of a successful CAP in a village complex 
prohibited further use of that village by the VC. 

Not all CAP units succeeded, especially during 
the period of rapid expansion of the program. 
Lieutenant Colonel Max McQuown, the comman- 
ding officer of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, was not 
favorably impressed with either of the two units in 
his battalion TAOR. He described the problems of 
these units: 

Few of the Marines assigned to these two CAP units had 
prior ground combat experience. . . . [They] were an ad- 
mixture out of combat service support units. The leaders 
and the Marines under them . . . lacked skills in scouting 
and patrolling, mines and booby traps, map reading, 
observed fire procedures, basic infantry tactics, and VC 
tactics and techniques. Further, they had scant knowledge 
of the Vietnamese language and were unfamiliar with the 
social and religious customs of the people they were living 
with. 

With respect to their PF counterparts, not one PF was a 



resident of either village ... all the eligible resident males, 
who should have been members of the PF platoons, were 
gone! They had been drafted into the ARVN, joined the 
VC, or deserted the village to keep from [serving in either 
the ARVN or VC]. The strength of each PF platoon in 
these villages never exceeded 20 men. . . . 

Marine [and PF] members of the CAP platoon . . . kept 
themselves aloof from the villagers they were supposed to 
be helping. ... 

There was no record of either CAP unit capturing a VC, 
let alone destroying the VC infrastructure in these villages. 
In fact, the VC operated with impunity around these 
villages unless elements of 3/1 were in the area. . . . 

[The chiefs of the two villages], both many times 
wounded [and] ardent anti-communist leaders, chose to 
deal directly with [the battalion S-2 and S-3 sections] with 
respect to VC activity and civic action programs. Both 
chiefs were instrumental in initiating 3/1 action against 
VC operating in and around their villages. Neither chief 
had faith that the CAP units would accomplish anything.' 

The existence of similar problems among a 
number of CAP units, which were traceable to rapid 
expansion of the program, was apparent to III MAF 
headquarters. To enhance the program's effec- 
tiveness. General Cushman, the new III MAF com- 
mander, established a provisional combined action 
group (CAG) headquarters at Da Nang. The 
primary purpose of this provisional CAG was to 
oversee training and support of the combined action 
units. A month later. III MAF formed two more 



A large South Vietnamese flag flies over the bunkers and barbed wire protecting the 
gate leading into the headquarters of Combined Action Platoon 3-1 in August 1967. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189537 





X 




PACIFICATION 



191 



CAGs to direct activities in the Phu Bai and Chu Lai 
areas. 

During July, III MAP revised control and support 
of the CAP Marines by removing them from the 
command of the Marine division responsible for 
their area. The new chain of command linked the 
CAPs through their companies and groups directly 
to III MAP. Under the revised system, supervisory 
authority rested with the deputy commanding 
general of III MAP, Major General Herman Nicker- 
son, Jr., via his Combined Action Program Staff. 
This command revision occurred following the 
relocation of Marine tactical units after the arrival of 
the Army's Task Porce Oregon at Chu Lai. 

The CAP program continued to grow during 
1967. By July there were 75 CAPs and by the end of i 
the year, 79 operated under 14 company head- 
quarters. 

The increasing success of the Combined Action 
Program demonstrated the results achievable. 
Pacification involved not changing, but rather, rein- 
forcing the villagers' own aspirations. The successful 
CAP Marines understood this and, because of it, 
achieved one of the basic goals of the entire pacifica- 
tion effort, the unification of interest between the 
South Vietnamese villager and the individual 
Marine. Por the process to work in the Marine 
TAORs, III MAP needed the same identity of in- 
terest between the Marines in the regular units and 
the local populace. Matines in companies and bat- 
talions had to realize that their mission was the pro- 
tection of the people, while the Vietnamese peasants 
had to learn to overcome their fear of Americans. 

The Marine Corps attempted to solve this problem 
with its Personal Response Project, a program 
designed to help the individual Marine to under- 
stand the South Vietnamese. Ill MAP initiated the 
project in July 1966, but it remained in a data 
collecting stage until early in 1967. The first steps of 
the program consisted of making several surveys of 
Marines throughout I Corps to establish a represen- 
tative sample of Marine attitudes toward the Viet- 
namese people. At the same time. III MAP chaplains 
conducted lectures and discussions to acquaint the 
Marines with the basic features of Vietnamese 
culture and civilization. Ill MAP distributed a Pla- 
toon Leader's Personal Response Notebook to all 
small unit commanders as an instruction guide for 
Marines under their command. 

In Pebruary 1967, the 3d Marine Division 
established a Personal Response Council and a Per- 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189650 
Cpl Gary W. Armstrong fires his M-60 machine gun 
toward a Viet Cong sniper's position while on a com- 
bat patrol with a combined action unit on 9 May. 

sonal Response Contact Team. The council and team 
started a variety of programs directed toward im- 
proving Marine-Vietnamese relationships, essentially 
through eliminating any negative attitudes held by 
the Marines.* By the end of May, both the 1st 
Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing 
had similar programs. 

The Headquarters, Marine Corps statement of the 
purpose and objectives of the Marine Corps Personal 
Response Project was: 

The Personal Response Project is a systematic effort 
toward attitudinal improvement in intercultural relations. 
By discovering the ways in which people of another culture 
relate their religious and ethical value systems to daily life 
the project develops effective anticipation of acculturative 
problems. Such anticipation and understanding is one of 
the keys to the elimination of offensive behavorial patterns 
toward indigenous citizens. It is expected that appropriate 
mutual assistance between Marines and the citizenry will 
be a by-product of increased understanding and con- 
tributory to the elimination of local guerrilla forces in an 
insurgency environment. 

The objectives of the Personal Response Project are to: 
assist military personnel to respond to the predisposition of 
indigenous citizens to act in concert with their social, 
religious, and cultural value systems; identify the expres- 
sion of these value systems and the motivation implicit in 
them; and recognize that the lives, relationships, and ac- 



192 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



tions of indigenous citizens are of the same importance as 
those of all other human beings.' 

Despite the heavy language, the approach seemed 
helpful. By the end of 1967, the Personal Response 
Project had become one of the anchors of III MAF's 
civic action program. Lieutenant Colonel Donald L. 
Evans, the III MAF assistant G-5 at the time the pro- 
ject started, stated that he considered the Personal 
Response Project as important as psychological 
operations and the Combined Action Program. '° 

The Marines realized that any effective pacifica- 
tion plan must have both a political and a 
psychological impact. They found that civic action 
and psychological operations had to be mutually 
supporting and to obtain a maximum benefit, re- 
quired close coordination with Vietnamese officials. 
To this end, the County Fair and Combined Action 
Programs proved most effective. Other joint 
psychological operations involved relocation of 
refugees from VC controlled areas and the support of 
tactical operations with armed propaganda teams' 
presentations, leaflet drops, audio-visual produc- 
tions, combat loudspeaker performances, and movie 
festivals. Vietnamese Cultural Drama Teams served 
in Marine operational areas to entertain local 
peasants; these teams presented short dramas and 
songs weaving in appropriate political points. 

The most significant psychological effort was the 
Chieu Hot (Open Arms) Program. This was the 
government's campaign to win over the Viet Cong. 
The government provided them with assistance for a 
new start by teaching them a trade to use when 
returning to their homes. Ralliers {hoi chanhs) often 
provided valuable information, especially regarding 
the location of troops and equipment caches, but 
more importantly. III MAF believed this program 
provided still another avenue for achieving pacifica- 
tion. Consequently, III MAF accelerated planning to 
support the Chieu Hoi Program. Planned support 
included the building of new Chieu Hoi centers to 
increase the handling capability of the returnees. 
During 1967, the Chieu Hoi Program accom- 
modated 2,539 ralliers in I Corps. 

In July 1966, the Marines used hoi chanhs for the 
first time during a County Fair operation. The hoi 
chanhs addressed small groups of villagers to 
describe the Viet Cong methods and intentions, as 
well as the benefits of the Government's Revolu- 
tionary Development Program. The success of hoi 
chanh employment rapidly became apparent; for ex- 



ample, in two months' time one rallier identified 
more than 30 VC. 

Achieving the full potential of the ralliers 
demanded rigid screening and orientation. Six par- 
ticipated in combat operations on a trial basis in Oc- 
tober 1966. The hoi chanhs' intimate knowledge of 
the terrain, their familiarity with local people, and 
their knowledge of the VC modus operandi proved 
invaluable to the tactical units. When General 
Nickerson, then commanding the 1st Marine Divi- 
sion, learned of the success of the trial, he ordered 
that all qualified returnees join field units as soon as 
possible. General Nickerson also originated the new 
collective name for the hoi chanhs; he called them 
Kit Carson Scouts, after the famous guide of the 
western frontier. At the end of 1966, 19 scouts 
served in the 1st Marine Division program. 

In February 1967, General Wait ordered the pro- 
gram adopted throughout III MAF. A newly 
established Kit Carson Training Center standardized 
scout training, and by the end of December 132 
scouts served with Marine units in I Corps. During 
the year 1967, scouts killed 58 Viet Cong, captured 
37, and seized 82 weapons. Equally important to the 
Marines operating with them was the scouts' 
discovery of 145 mines and explosive devices. 

Among other civic action programs employed by 
the Marines during 1967, public health and educa- 

Pham Duoc, a veteran of five months as a Kit Carson 
Scout, points on a map to likely Viet Cong hiding 
places to LCpl R. D. Kilmer and Cpl P. F. Collins, 
while fellow Scout Ho Quyet (center) watches. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189519 



#«|^^^^/^ 




PACIFICATION 



193 




3d MarDiv ComdC, May 1967 
2dLt Edward F. McCourt, Jr. (left), SSgt Roy C. Sharp, and He-Xung, an inter- 
preter/translator, train Kit Carson Scouts on the M-16 at the training center at Phu Bai. 



tion continued to be keystones of the effort. Of the 
two, medical assistance produced the most im- 
mediate results. Almost every unit conducted 
medical and dental civic action projects (MedCAPs 
and DentCAPs) for their humanitarian value. As an 
adjunct to MedCAPs, Navy medical personnel 
distributed medical supplies to the Vietnamese and 
Vietnamese medical workers. 

The Public Health Program bridged the gap bet- 
ween pure medical assistance and self-help projects. 
These efforts operated under the aegis of CORDS 
and the supervision of the Public Health Committee 
of I Corps' JCC. A general sanitation campaign in- 
cluded trash removal, innoculations, preventive 
medicine, pest control, and water purification. 

Just as good health was a prerequisite to the 
villagers' general well being, education was man- 
datory for economic and social growth. Medical 
assistance, particularly the MedCAP efforts, produc- 
ed immediate, tangible results; conversely the III 
MAP civil education program offered few short-term 
advantages, but the Marines could not ignore the re- 
quirement for education and its long-range impact. 
During 1967, the Marines expanded the school 
building project they started during the spring of 
1966. They coordinated this program through the 
Education Committee of I Corps JCC to determine 
the hamlets that wanted to participate. Each par- 
ticipating hamlet provided an adequate school site, 
agreed to provide labor for its construction, arranged 
for a teacher, and paid the teacher's salary. In return, 
the Marines agreed to provide construction 



materials, technical advice, and heavy equipment. 
Each application required coordination with the 
local government and CORDS officials to ensure 
compatibility with overall national school construc- 
tion plans. 

Even more widespread than the school building 
programs were those of providing school supplies. 
Most of the refugee village schools needed every type 
of school supply. Elementary school kits from the 
Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) 
were the most popular item distributed to individual 
students. Classroom supply kits, also from CARE, 
went to those students who needed only 
replacements. By the end of 1967, almost every 
school-age child in I Corps had received, at one time 
or another, one of the CARE kits. 

These humanitarian programs were very difficult 
to accomplish in actual practice. Committing a bat- 
talion to an operation outside its TAOR or transfer- 
ring it to another area could often disrupt the con- 
tinuity of the pacification effort within a village. 
Vietnamese teachers were understandably reluctant 
to risk their lives by working in newly-built schools 
in contested villages. In addition, as Lieutenant Col- 
onel McQuown of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines 
pointed out, some projects required a 48-hour day to 
complete. "The Vietnamese people," he wrote, 
"labored from dawn to darkness just to farm and 
raise enough food to subsist. At the end of the work- 
ing day they were too tired to be interested in a lec- 
ture on the necessity of screening or covering a toilet 
that had been open for 3,000 years. . . ."" In spite of 



194 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370O42 
Lt Thomas E. Bunnell, a Navy physician assigned to 
the 5d Battalion, 3th Marines, gives a shot to a Viet- 
namese child during a medical civic action patrol 
(Medcap) to a village five miles northeast ofChu Lai. 

these and other obstacles, the Marines persisted in 
their pacification efforts. 

Reporting and Evaluation 

As 1967 began, the Marines in I Corps used two 
measurement systems to evaluate progress in the 
various pacification programs. Ill MAF in- 



dependently developed one system. On the other 
hand, MACV used the Hamlet Evaluation System 
(HES) on a country-wide basis to evaluate all areas 
where Government authority existed. 

In February 1966, the Marines introduced an in- 
dex system to measure and record a broad range of 
essential indicators of pacification status. The index 
related civic action and Revolutionary Development 
programs in the TAORs and, at the same time, tied 
in Marine Corps combat operations to both pro- 
grams. Essentially, the system equated progress in 
pacification with the progress of the war, and includ- 
ed indicators of improvement which required action 
by military organizations. The system included five 
basic general indicators of progress: 

1. Destruction of enemy military units 

2. Destruction of enemy infrastructure 

3. Establishment of local security by the Vietnamese 

4. Establishment of local government by the Viet- 
namese 

5. Status of Ne' Life Development Programs 

The village served as the basic measurement unit 
in this assessment since it consisted of a clearly de- 
fined area for applying uniform standards for com- 
parative purposes. The evaluator determined the 
level of pacification progress in each village based on 
five general indicators which, in turn, subdivided in- 
to subordinate elements. The subordinate elements 
carried various weights, so that a village that fully 
satisfied all elements of each indicator received 100 
points. For the subdivision and specific weights of 
the system, see table this page. 



Pacification Progress Indices 



1. Destruction of Organized VC Military Forces 

a. VC local /main force units destroyed or driven out 15 

b. GVN/FW/MAF capable of defending the area 3 

20 

2. Destruction of VC Infrastructure 

a. Census completed 2 

b. VC infrastructure discovered and destroyed or 
neutralized 8 

c. GVN intelligence network established 5 

d. Census grievance teams completed interviewing each 
family 2 

e. Principal grievances proceed 3 



3. Establishment of Local Security 

a. Defense plans completed 

b. Defense construction completed 

c. Local defense forces trained and in place 

d. Communications established with supporting unit 



2 
3 

12 
3 

20 



Establishment of Local Government 

a. Village chief and council elected and functioning 

b. Village chief lives and sleeps in the village 

c. Hamlet chiefs and councils elected and functioning 

d. Hamlet chief lives and sleeps in the hamlet 

e. Psyops and public information services established 

f. Village statutes enacted 

g. Village social and administrative organization com- 
pleted 

Completion of Initial New Life Hamlet Programs 

a. Necessary public health works, required to meet in- 
itial needs of populace, completed 

b. Necessary educational requirements, to satisfy initial 
needs, have been met 

c. Necessary agricultural works completed 

d. Adequate ground transportation into and out of the 
area has been established 

e. Necessary markets established 



Maximum points 



4 
4 
20 
100 



PACIFICATION 



195 



Each component of the system depended on the 
others, thus the evaluation could not reflect a great 
achievement in the category "Establishment of Local 
Government" until the village made large advances 
in the category "Destruction of Enemy Units." A 
high score in "Completion of Initial New Life 
Hamlet Programs" was possible only if it represented 
gains in security and the establishment of local ap- 
paratus in the village. A score of 60 points for a 
village indicated that government had established 
firm influence. A "pacified" village was one which 
attained the grade of 80 points. The system proved 
to be highly successful and, with minor refinements, 
became the basic technique used by the Marines to 
assess pacification progress. At the end of 1967, it re- 
mained the standard system. 

The Hamlet Evaluation System, devised by the 
Department of Defense in conjunction with the U.S. 
Mission Council, Vietnam, appeared in December 
1966. Patterned after the Marine evaluation system, 
it differed in several important areas: 

The HES system focused on the hamlet level, while the 
Marine system graded villages. 

HES presented the results of its hamlet evaluation in let- 
ter form, while the Marine project rated the village by 
numerical percentage. 

Several HES elements required subjective evaluation, 
while the Marine system was basically objective. 

HES evaluated all areas in which Government authority 
was present, while the Marines' system rated only those 
villages in which III MAF influence was present. 

HES utilized the advisory structure for its information 
while the Marine system used the military structure.'^ 



HES, like the Marine system, operated on a 
monthly reporting cycle. The heart of the system was 
the Hamlet Evaluation Worksheet (HEW), which 
each district advisor prepared for each of his district's 
hamlets possessing some degree of Government con- 
trol. The advisor analyzed each hamlet's pacification 
status in terms of six general categories: 

1 . VC military activities 

2. VC political and subversive activities 

3. Security (friendly capabilities) 

4. Administrative and political activities 

5. Health, education, and welfare 

6. Economic development 

Each of the six categories received a rating in- 
dicator, from A (best) through E. The advisor also 
completed a multiple-choice list of 14 questions 
about the hamlet's problems during the month. 
Despite the basic differences between the Marines' 
System and the HES, the systems proved compatible 
as well as complementary. 

Neither system was flawless, however. Both re- 
quired a great deal of work to compile statistics that 
were not always meaningful. As Colonel Black, the 
III MAF G-5 noted, the fact a village chief slept in 
his village was misleading. "If the chief did," wrote 
Black, "the usual assumption was made that 
pacification was really in progress. [However, the] 
chief could be VC and sleep in the village and the 
village or hamlet could be under VC control." 
Nevertheless, III MAF considered the village report 
the better indicator of pacified areas. '^ 



PART VI 
SUPPORT AND CONCLUSION 



CHAPTER 13 

Supporting Arms 

Marine Air Operations — Fixed-Wing Operations — Helicopter Operations — Artillery 



Marine Air Operations 

At the start of 1967, Major General Louis B. 
Robertshaw's 1st Marine Aircraft Wing consisted of 
three fixed-wing groups, MAGs-11, -12, and -13, 
and two helicopter groups, MAGs-l6 and -36. One 
fixed-wing group, MAG-11, operated from Da 
Nang, while the other two were at Chu Lai. The two 
helicopter groups operated from different bases also; 
MAG- 36 was at Ky Ha, and MAG- 16 split between 
Marble Mountain and Phu Bai. Wing headquarters, 
services, command, and control functions came from 
units of Marine Wing Headquarters Group 1 
(MWHG-1) at Da Nang. 

General Robertshaw, as III MAF's air component 
commander, exercised operational control of these 
units through his staff and by means of the Marine 



air command and control system. The key unit in 
this system, the tactical air direction center (TADC), 
was at wing headquarters in Da Nang.* This agency 
monitored the employment of all wing aircraft and 
allocated resources to specific missions. TADC exer- 
cised control through two subordinate organizations, 
the tactical air operations center (TAOC) and the 
direct air support centers (DASCs). 



*The senior agency in the Marine air command and control 
system normally is the Tactical Air Command Center (TACC). 
Since the Seventh Air Force had a TACC in Saigon, the 1st MAW 
center used "TADC" as provided for in doctrine. Lieutenant 
General Keith B. McCutcheon, "Marine Aviation in Vietnam, 
1962-1970," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, May 
1971, p. 138. 



Sunlight reflects from a .JO caliber machine gun sticking from the side of a CH-46A 
helicopter as it heads out on a late afternoon mission to a unit southwest of An Hoa. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421675 




199 



200 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The TADC, manned by Marine Air Control 
Squadron 7 (MACS-7), was the main control center 
for both antiair warfare and air traffic control. Plot- 
ters wrote information from the unit's various radars 
on vertical display boards from which controllers 
maintained positive air traffic control, as well as 
target area air space control. In June, wing control 
capabilities significantly increased when MACS-4 ar- 
rived to replace MACS-7. The new unit brought 
with it a new semi-automated, computer-oriented 
TAOC which comprised part of the Marine Tactical 
Data System (MTDS). This TAOC permitted the 
wing to handle more than 200 aircraft tracks at the 
same time. When the complete MTDS became 
operational on Monkey Mountain on the Tiensha 
Peninsula northeast of Da Nang in July, it provided 
a link with the Navy Tactical Data System of the 
Seventh Fleet for instant exchange of air defense 
data with ships operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. 
Future plans for the MTDS included a connection 
with the Air Force Tactical Data System for passing 
air defense and air control data instantly from 
Thailand to Da Nang and naval units in the Tonkin 
Gulf. 

While the TAOC, collocated with the MTDS and 
a Hawk missile battery on Monkey Mountain, served 
as the hub of wing control and air defense, the 
DASCs were the main centers of support for ground 
units. At the beginning of 1967, three DASCs were 
in operation; one at each of the division head- 
quarters and one at the 3d Marine Division (For- 
ward) Command Post at Dong Ha. Marine Air Sup- 
port Squadrons (MASS) 2 and 3 provided the 
DASCs. Requests for air support, both attack and 
helicopter, passed through battalion and regimental 
air liaison officers to the DASC at division head- 
quarters; requests from AOs and FACs went directly 
to DASC. 

The support squadrons also contained the air sup- 
port radar teams (ASRTs). During 1967, there were 
five ASRTs in operation. Located at Chu Lai, Da 
Nang, Phu Bai, and Dong Ha (two), each team used 
TPQ-10 radar to control aircraft in direct support 
missions during low visibility conditions. TPQ-lOs 
had a 50-mile range, thus the Marine radar coverage 
included almost all of I Corps. 

Although their mission was not tactical in nature, 
the Marine air traffic control units (MATCUs) were 
vital to the conduct of effective air operations. At all 
Marine airfields, the MATCUs provided terminal 
traffic control, including landing instructions and 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189984 
Men from Marine Air Traffic Control Unit 62, a 
subordinate unit of MAG-12, operate at the Khe 
Sanh airstrip from expeditionary equipment they 
have sandbagged against NVA artillery and rockets. 

ground-controlled approach data during periods of 
low visibility. 

Until the activation of Marine Air Control Group 
18 on 1 September 1967, the units operating the 
Marine air command and control system were part of 
Marine Wing Headquarters Group 1. With one 
headquarters squadron, two air support squadrons, 
two air control squadrons, and two antiaircraft 
missile battalions on 1 July 1967, the group was one 
of the largest known to Marine aviation. Its person- 
nel served throughout I Corps, including Chu Lai, 
Phu Bai, Dong Ha, Marble Mountain, Monkey 
Mountain, and the Hai Van Pass.' 

Throughout 1967 the 1st MAW operated under 
the provisions of MACV Aviation Directive 95-4 of 
25 June 1966. This directive gave the commander of 
the Seventh Air Force, in his capacity as Deputy 
Commander USMACV (Air), the "coordinating 
authority" for tactical air support in South Vietnam, 
but not actual operational control of Marine air. The 
system allowed 1st MAW to meet all of III MAF's air 
support requirements while making its excess sortie 
capability available to Seventh Air Force for sup- 
porting other U.S. and allied forces. 

A Memorandum of Agreement between III MAF 
and Seventh Air Force guided 1st MAW's air defense 
operations during 1967. Both services recognized the 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



201 



necessity of a unified air defense system in the event 
of a North Vietnamese air attack on South Vietnam. 
The agreement gave the Air Force overall air defense 
responsibility, including naming an air defense com- 
mander. The 1st MAW designated which of its 
forces would participate in air defense and granted 
the Air Force certain authority over those forces, in- 
cluding the scrambling of alert aircraft, designation 
of targets, declaration of Hawk missile control status, 
and firing orders. 

Marine commanders were essentally satisfied with 
the adequacy of these documents. In actual practice, 
1st MAW controlled all air operations in support of 
ground units in I Corps while making available 25 to 
30 sorties per day to the Seventh Air Force. ^ This 
system remained in effect until the advent of "single 
management" in early 1968. 

Fixed- Wing Operations 

In the absence of enemy aircraft over South Viet- 
nam, the day-to-day mission of the 1st MAW fighter 
and fighter attack squadrons became close air sup- 
port (CAS).^ By long-established doctrinal defini- 
tion, these air strikes were against targets so close to 
friendly forces that each mission required integration 
with the fire and maneuver plans of the ground com- 
bat element. For better coordination and to reduce 
the possibility of friendly casualties, a forward air 
controller (FAC) with the supported unit or an air- 
borne forward air controller (FAC[A]) controlled 
these strikes. 

There were two basic categories of CAS mission, 
preplanned and immediate. A preplanned strike was 
the culmination of a complex process. For example, 
a Marine battalion commander with the mission of 
taking a specified objective normally would submit a 
request for strike aircraft through his air liaison of- 
ficer the day before the operation began. From the 
battalion this request passed through the DASC at 
division and eventually to the wing TADC at Da 
Nang. There, the TADC assimilated all requests and 
assigned missions to one of the three fixed-wing 
groups, depending on the nature of the target and 
aircraft type desired for the mission. 

As soon as the TADC passed the mission to a 
MAG, the group operations officers compared the 
orders with aircraft availability within the group and 
assigned a schedule to each squadron for the follow- 
ing day. Each mission passed by TADC through 
group received a mission number, a time on target 



(TOT), and a prescribed ordnance load;* the 
squadron scheduling officer merely assigned pilots 
and aircraft. 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421815 
A Marine forward air controller in a small O- 1 obser- 
vation aircraft checks a target after directing an air- 
strike on the position by fixed-wing attack aircraft. 

At the appropriate time, the aircraft took off and 
headed for the target. Once airborne, the flight 
leader contacted TADC to confirm that his flight 
was airborne and proceeding on schedule. Usually 
the TADC simply cleared the leader for his original 
mission, but if a target of higher priority developed, 
the TADC could divert the flight. In this case, 
before entering the new operating area, the leader 
contacted the responsible DASC, which cleared the 
flight to a local controller. Normally this was a divi- 
sion air liaison officer (ALO) or a Marine or Air Force 
FAC(A) flying over the area of the infantry unit to 
be supported. 

FAC(A)s in either light observation planes or UH- 
lE helicopters controlled most CAS missions in I 



*ColonelJohn M. Verdi pointed out that this system did not 
relieve the squadron commander of his responsibihties. The 
squadron commander had to carefully supervise the weight and 
balance of the prescribed load on the aircraft to avoid unnecessary 
danger to the crew and aircraft during takeoff and combat 
maneuvering. Col John M. Verdi, Comments on draft ms, 4Jun81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.), hereafter 
Verdi Comments. 



202 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Corps. During these missions, the airborne con- 
troller monitored the ground unit's VHF radio net 
and directed the attacking aircraft over his UHF 
radio. When a flight arrived on station, the FAC in- 
formed the pilots* of the target description, eleva- 
tion, attack heading, direction of pull-out, number 
of passes desired, and the number and type of 
bombs to be dropped on each pass. He also relayed 
the direction and distance to the nearest friendly 
units. The FAC then marked the target with a white 
phosphorous rocket or a smoke grenade. Once cer- 
tain that the pilots had identified the correct target, 
the controller cleared the jet for an approach with 
the phrase "cleared hot." Thus instructed, the flight 
leader would make the first pass on the marked 
target, followed closely by his wingman. 
Throughout the strike, the ALO or FAC would relay 
corrections to the attack planes, often directing them 
to new targets as the Communist troops maneuvered 
or fled. . 

While preplanned missions required approx- 
imately 20 hours from time of request to time of 
delivery, the wing could respond much more quickly 
if necessary. This response was an "immediate mis- 
sion." If an emergency developed, the TADC or 
DASCs diverted airborne flights to another target, 
and briefed them en route to the new target. The 
TADC also could launch aircraft from one of three 
"hot pads." Each of the three fixed-wing groups 
maintained four planes on an around-the-clock alert 
for this type of emergency. Two of the planes at each 
group were on primary alert, and the other two 
served as a backup in case of another emergency. The 
time lapse between notification to launch and until 
the on-call aircraft became airborne normally was 
just under 10 minutes. As soon as a flight of alert air- 
craft became airborne, another flight replaced it on 
the pad. 

Another important aspect of Marine fixed-wing 
operations was deep air support. These strikes did 
not take place in the immediate vicinity of friendly 
forces and, therefore, did not require integration 
with the ground maneuver plan. Deep air support 
missions helped isolate the battlefield by destroying 
enemy reinforcements, support troops, and logistic 



resources. If a FAC(A) was available in the objective 
area, he controlled the strikes, but his services were 
not mandatory because the distance from the target 
to friendly forces eliminated the chance of accidental 
bombing. However, pilots of strike aircraft often 
preferred to work with a FAC(A) on such missions 
because of the latter's greater familiarity with targets 
and enemy defenses in the area.^ 

The aircraft most frequently selected for close sup- 
port missions was the Douglas A-4E Skyhawk. Col- 
onel Jay W. Hubbard's MAG- 12 included four A-4 
squadrons. The A-4E was a small, highly 
maneuverable, attack jet capable of extremely ac- 
curate bombing. The Skyhawk could deliver a varie- 
ty of ordnance including bombs, rockets, napalm, 
smoke, and 20mm cannon fire. The most significant 
performance limitation of the A-4 was the size of its 
payload, roughly 3,000 pounds.* 

The McDonnell F-4B Phantom II was a more ver- 
satile aircraft. Four F-4 squadrons operated in Viet- 
nam during 1967, one assigned to Colonel Franklin 
C. Thomas, Jr.'s MAG- 11, at Da Nang and three 
with Colonel Douglas D. Petty, Jr.'s MAG-13. 
Designed to perform the primary air-to-air mission 
and modified to perform a secondary air-to-ground 
mission, the F-4 was one of the fastest interceptors in 
the world, yet it could carry as many as twenty-four 
500-pound bombs for ground support.' 

Lieutenant Colonel John M. Verdi commented, 
however, that this was a theoretical figure that did 
not reflect the realities of combat. He wrote recently: 

. . . the F-4 could be loaded with as many as 24 Mk-82 
bombs . . . But (1) not an F-4B (unless one elected to go 
with 2 ,000 pounds less than full internal fuel so as to com- 
ply with max gross weight), and (2) not if the target was 
anywhere further away than the end of the runway. I 
daresay somebody might have hauled such a load in com- 
bat (to get his picture taken), but in the real tactical world 
the choices came down to TANK-3-6-3-TANK ([as did 
VMFA-] 122 and most USAF units) and 3-3-TANK-3-3 
(most Navy units). Of course, Brand X [squadrons] did it 
6-3-TANK-3-6, which (1) overloaded the airplane, (2) 
cracked the wing spars, and (3) gave the crew an un- 
manageable rolling moment in event of failure of one of 
those outboard MERs (multiple ejection racks] to release or 
jettison (something [the Air Force] found out when they 
tried it, which is why they went back to TANK-3-6-3- 
TANK.)' 



♦Colonel John M. Verdi noted that such in-the-clear radio 
transmissions also informed enemy monitors of the particulars of 
the mission. This was true of all radio transmissions, ground or 
air, without voice encryption devices, especially during this period 
when radio frequencies and call signs did not change on a daily 
basis . Verdi Comments. 



*As is common with aircraft, the A-4's practical payload varied 
from as much as 5,000 pounds in the winter monsoon to as little 
as 2,000 pounds in the heat of summer, assuming a center-line ex- 
ternal tank. Verdi comments. 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



203 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A26453 
A large ordnance load and multiple bomb racks made the A-4 Sky hawk, shown here in 
the A-4F version entering production in 1967 , a mainstay for close air support missions. 



Two other types of Marine aircraft available for 
ground support operations during 1967 were the 
Ling-Temco-Vought F-8E Crusader and the Grum- 
man A6-A Intruder. One squadron of each type 
served under MAG- 11 at Da Nang. 

The Crusader carried internally mounted 20mm 
cannon and was the only Marine aircraft in Vietnam 
configured to carry more than one 2,000-pound 
bomb until the arrival of the A-6A. Because the 
F-8Es were originally designed as a high performance 
fighter, the Marines phased out these planes and 
replaced them with F-4s.' 

The morning of 1 April, VMA(AW)-533, com- 
manded by Lieutenant Colonel Williams P. Brown, 
arrived at Chu Lai to become MAG-12's first A-6 
squadron.* The A-6A was the only operational U.S. 
aircraft that had a self-contained all-weather bomb- 
ing capability using a moving target indicator.* It 
flew extensive interdiction missions during the mon- 
soon season, not only in South Vietnam, but also in 
Laos and North Vietnam. The Intruder could carry a 
heavy bomb load to a target 400 miles away, drop its 
ordnance, and return to base, even during severe 
monsoon conditions. 

The increase in heavy ground action in northern I 
Corps during the early months of 1967 brought 
demands for many more close and direct air support 
missions in that region. The heavy fighting at Khe 
Sanh in late April and early May provided a classic 



♦Lieutenant Colonel Howard Wolfs VMA(AW)-242, also fly- 
ing the A-6 A and pan of MAG- 11, had arrived in Vietnam on 1 
November 1966. 



example of integrated employment of modern, 
fixed-wing aviation in support of ground maneuver 
elements. In the two weeks of bitter fighting for 
Hills 881 North and South, the 1st MAW flew more 
than 1,000 sorties for Marine infantry units. The 
defeat of the enemy on this critical terrain was the 
product of skillful and closely coordinated air- 
ground action. 

As the enemy continued to focus on northern 
Quang Tri Province, Marine aviation, from 2 June 
under the command of Major General Norman J. 
Anderson, increased the tempo of attack operations 
there. Primary targets were enemy artillery and 
rocket sites, a major threat to allied units and in- 
stallations along the DMZ. By July, intelligence of- 
ficers had identified approximately 130 sites, in- 
cluding weapons as large as 152mm gun-howitzers. 
The heaviest raids against these positions occurred 
during and after the battle for Con Thien, when 
Marine aircraft participated in joint operations called 
Headshed, Neutralize, and Eradicate. These opera- 
tions received the acronym SLAM, for searching, 
locating, annihilating, and monitoring. This con- 
cept used the entire spectrum of supporting fire: 
B-52s, tactical air, artillery, and naval gunfire. 
Elements of the Seventh Air Force, Strategic Air 
Command, Seventh Fleet, Vietnamese Air Force, 
Marine and Army artillery, and 1st MAW concen- 
trated on destroying the enemy fire support posi- 
tions. By the end of the year, the effort destroyed 
less than 40 of the NVA weapons. 

While the majority of the 1st MAW's out-of- 



204 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A422400-B 
General purpose bombs hang from the wings of an A-6A Intruder from VM.A(AW)-242 
and an F-4B Phantom II from VM.FA-542 enroute on a scheduled mission in Vietnam. 



country missions were in the DMZ area, Marine 
pilots also participated in strikes against North Viet- 
nam. These strikes involved the six areas of North 
Vietnam which planners called "route packages." 
Route Package I was immediately north of the DMZ; 
Route Package VI lay in the extreme north of the 
country. Bombing of the southern portion of Route 
Package I, codenamed "Tally Ho"and under the con- 
trol of Seventh Air Force, began in July 1966. By the 
winter of 1967, Tally Ho missions ceased as a 
separate entity; strikes in the area thereafter fell 
within the overall interdiction campaign. ^ 

The Seventh Air Force's retaliatory Rolling 
Thunder raids, initiated in March 1965, expanded to 
include high intensity interdiction missions during 
1967. On 18 May 1967, VMA(AW)-242 participated 
in the first Rolling Thunder strike in Route Package 
VI (Hanoi/ Haiphong). >° The other A-6A squadron, 
VMA(AW)-533, kept just as active. The 
sophisticated electronic equipment and superb all- 
weather capability of the Intruder made it an ideal 
aircraft for attacks against attractive, but heavily 
defended. North Vietnamese targets. 

Because of the A-6's all-weather capability, 1st 
MAW reduced the enemy's antiaircraft effectiveness 
by flying most Marine Rolling Thunder missions at 
night and as single-aircraft missions." During the 
strikes, the attack pilots relied upon assistance from 
their fellow Marines from VMCJ-l. EF-lOBs and EA- 
6As of VMCJ-l, the same basic aircraft as the A-6As, 
carried equipment for electronic countermeasure 



missions; they carried no ordnance. ^^ During the 
raids, the EF-lOBs or EA-6s orbited beyond North 
Vietnamese surface-to-air missile range and jammed 
the enemy's fire control radar while the attacking In- 
truders made their target runs. Because of their 
lighter equipment load, the EA-6As could remain 
on station longer than the attack aircraft, an ideal 
situation for superior electronic countermeasure raid 
protection. Prime targets for Rolling Thunder mis- 
sions were bridges, fuel facilities, rolling stock, air- 
fields, missile sites, and supply lines.* 

In addition to close and deep air support missions, 
Marine fixed-wing squadrons conducted a variety of 
less dramatic, but equally important, tasks such as 
landing zone (LZ) preparation. These operations il- 
lustrated the then prevalent Marine Corps concept 
that the helicopter was a mode of transportation, not 
an attack aircraft. The 1st Wing provided fixed-wing 
support for helicopter assaults of contested landing 
zones. Prior to and during these landings, Marine at- 
tack aircraft would strike the objective area to clear 
obstacles and neutralize possible antiaircraft threats. 
As the troop-carrying helicopters entered the zone, 
the covering jet pilots would shift their attacks to ter- 
rain around the LZ from which the enemy could op- 



*After the NVA's deployment of missiles in the DMZ area in 
April, electronic countermeasure EA-6As and older EF-lOB Sky 
Knights remained airborne over the area to counter this threat. 
Their effectiveness limited Marine aircraft losses to only two 
missile kills during 1967. 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



203 




3d MarDiv GjmdC, September 1967 
Cargo parachutes stream from the rear of one of 
VMGR-132's KC-130S bringing supplies to the Khe 
Sanh combat base in September 1967 after enemy 
activity closed the only road leading to the base. 

pose the landing. These strikes not only protected 
the helicopters, but also shielded the first infantry 
waves during the critical, early phase of the landing. 

Other Marine fixed-wing pilots contributed im- 
measurably to the overall air effort, even though 
they never fired a shot or dropped a bomb. Some 
flew the C-1 17Ds assigned to the headquarters of the 
aircraft groups. These C-117D missions varied from 
routine logistics support to dropping flares over 
friendly forces at night. Another group of transport 
pilots came from VMGR-152. The squadron's 
Lockheed KC-130 Hercules provided extensive and 
varied support for both III MAF and 1st MAW. 
Though VMGR-152's home base remained at MCAS 
Futema, Okinawa, the squadron maintained a 
detachment of at least four planes on a rotational 
basis at Da Nang. The Marine transport's 30,000- to 
35,000-pound cargo load, depending on mission 
range, served many varied logistic requirements. The 
130s flew diversified missions such as in-flight 
refueling of jets, paradropping of bulk lots of am- 
munition and supplies, flare drops, and even service 
as airborne DASCs; as well as for daily, routine 
shipments of hundreds of passengers and tons of 



cargo. Such varied missions required great flying 
skill, especially those into Khe Sanh and Dong Ha. 
Flying into Khe Sanh under visual flight rules and 
into Dong Ha with its dust and short runway were 
routine but far from dull missions for VMGR-152 
pilots. '5 

VMCJ-l's version of the Phantom II, the RF-4B, 
equipped with cameras in the nose, performed a 
variety of photo-reconnaissance missions for 1st 
MAW. These aircraft also contributed directly to the 
defense of Da Nang, as described by one of the 
squadron's commanders. Major Edgar J. Love: 

. . . after the second rocket attack on Da Nang, 14 July 
1967, the RF-4B played a major role in helping to keep the 
VC from launching rockets within the 12,000 meter ring 
[around the base]. Through use of its sensors, the RF-4B 
was able to [monitor] a fairly large area on a daily basis 
from about 5 miles north of Da Nang to about 20 miles 
south and from the sea on the east to some 30 miles in- 
land. When it was determined that the various [enemy] 
teams transporting rockets were converging into a central 
area, harassing fires or air strikes (including B-52s) were 
directed into these areas. It was a coordinated effort of 
reconnaissance patrols, artillery, air strikes, and airborne 
reconnaissance. As a side light. Major Richard W. 
Hawthorne and Captain Richard R. Kane, while flying one 



The sun rises beneath the nose of a venerable C-1 11 
at the Ky Ha airfield at the Chu Lai combat base in 
February. This particular aircraft had logged over 
13,000 hours in the air and still performed reliably. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421604 



^f//4 




li' 



'M 




206 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Depamnent of Defense Photo (USMC) A421998 
Cpl William H. Mielke (top) and LCpl Phillip J. 
Orlando of Headquarters and Maintenance 
Squadron 36 repair the AD20-8 engine of their 
squadron's C-117D at Phu Bai on 50 December. 

of these many reconnaissance flights, crashed in 
September 1967 and were declared missing.*''' 

Helicopter Operations 

The Vietnam War was the first conflict in history 
to involve large-scale employment of helicopter 
forces. This "Cavalry of the Sky" provided the allies 
with the advantages of mobility and staying power 
which negated much of the advantage held by an 
already elusive enemy. To the infantryman the 
helicopter was more than a tactical expedient; it was 
a part of his life. Helicopters carried him into battle, 
provided him with life and fire support, and rushed 
him to the hospital if he were sick or wounded. 

At the beginning of 1967, MAGs-16 and -36 and 
the SLF had a total of 11 helicopter squadrons 
operating in South Vietnamese air space. Of these, 
eight were transport squadrons flying either the 
Sikorsky UH-34D, a Vietnam veteran since early 
1962, or the relatively new and larger Boeing- Vertol 
CH-46A. The other three squadrons were observa- 
tion squadrons equipped with the highly 



maneuverable, single-engined Bell UH-lE.* 

The Marines used helicopters for five basic mis- 
sions: tactical airlift of troops, insertion and extrac- 
tion of reconnaissance teams, supply, downed air- 
craft recovery, and search and rescue. The helicopter 
groups frequently supported more than a dozen ma- 
jor ground operations during a given month. The 1st 
MAW maintained direct control of the helicopter 
groups, issuing orders to them on the basis of the 
ground units' daily needs. The air request and allot- 
ment chain of command was basically the same as for 
fixed-wing squadrons. While the daily schedule 
covered routine missions, many unforeseeable situa- 
tions occurred, such as medical evacuations, 
emergency extractions, and downed aircraft. To deal 
with these contingencies, the squadrons kept a sec- 
tion of helicopters on strip alert, normally either one 
UH-34 or CH-46 transport and one armed UH-lE to 
fly "chase." 

"Medevac" and emergency extractions were 
especially critical because lives depended on the 
quick and effective response of the helicopter crews. 
Most of these missions occurred when friendly forces 
were in close contact with the enemy; in such cases, 
ground fire in the landing zone was almost a certain- 
ty. Even with the jet and armed helicopter escort, 
rescue helicopters rarely departed the landing zone 
without sustaining hits from enemy fire. These 
flights usually took place over extremely rugged ter- 
rain, which gave the pilots problems in even finding 
the landing zone. MAG- 16 and -36 squadrons flew 
these missions daily. The skill and courage of the 
helicopter crews were the major factors enabling 
nearly 99 percent of the wounded evacuees to sur- 
vive.'' 

A major factor in the success of these missions was 
the presence of UH-lE "gunships." Assigned to the 
observation squadrons (VMOs), the UH-lEs func- 
tioned in a number of roles. The armed version, or 
gunship, carried four fuselage-mounted, electrically 
fired M-60 machine guns and two 19-round rocket 
packs. Gunships flew escort and close air support 
missions and also served as command and control 



*The Marine Corps later administratively declared both officers 
legally dead. The determination occurred on 28 November 1978 
for Hawthorne and 26 February 1980 for Kane. 



*VMO squadrons each rated 12 light helicopters in 1965 and 
the Marine Corps had obtained UH-lEs based on this figure. The 
scarcity of suitable fixed-wing observation planes resulted in fur- 
ther procurement, so that by 1967 UH-lEs were the only aircraft 
assigned to the three VMOs m Vietnam. By December of that 
year, each squadron had between 21 and 27 UH-lEs available. 
This interim measure continued until the arrival of the long- 
awaited OV-10 in 1968. 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



207 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A421708 
A Navy flight deck crewman on the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) signals the pilot of a Marine 
UH-lE that he is cleared for take off in support of Operation Beau Charger, Special Lan- 
ding Force Alpha's assist to Operation Hickory against NVA forces below the DMZ. 



"birds" for airborne forward air controllers as well as 
senior ground commanders. Each division com- 
mander had a permanently assigned helicopter; 
regimental and battalion commanders used others 
on an "as available" basis. 

In the FAQ A) mode, one rocket pack carried 
white phosphorous marking rockets, the other con- 
tained high explosive missiles. In a clean, unarmed 
configuration, appropriately referred to as a "slick," 
the aircraft could carry seven to nine fully equipped 
troops. "Slicks" also performed administrative and 
transport missions such as VIP flights. 

An incident occurred in southern Quang Ngai 
Province in late 1967 which demonstrated both the 
firepower of the armed UH-lE and the tenacity, 
skill, and courage of Marine gunship crews. On 19 
August, Captain Stephen W. Pless, a VMO-6 gun- 
ship pilot, was flying chase for an emergency 
medevac mission when he heard over the radio net of 
another emergency situation. Pless learned that four 
U.S. Army soldiers were stranded on a beach north 
of Due Pho and were about to be overwhelmed by a 
large Viet Cong force. Breaking off from his original 
mission, the Huey pilot flew to the scene. On arrival, 
Pless saw about 50 VC in the open; some were 
bayoneting and beating the Americans. He swept in 



IstLt Jack H. McCracken, a helicopter pilot with 
HMM-165, escaped serious injury during a resupply 
mission in Quang Ngai province when the 
.30-caliber round he holds smashed into his cockpit 
and lodged in the hard rubber heel of his left boot. 
Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A423001 




208 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A422068 
The terror of a helicopter me devac flight under fire shows on the faces of a wounded 
Marine, Cpl Larry R. Miklos (center) and an unidentified Navy hospital corpsman as 
they watch an enemy machine gun shooting toward their helicopter on 1 September. 



on the VC, killing and wounding many and driving 
the survivors back into a treeline. He made his rocket 
and machine gun attacks at such low levels that 
fragments from his own ordnance pelted the gun- 
ship. Though still under heavy small arms fire, Pless 
landed his gunship between the Communists in the 
treeline and the wounded soldiers. His two enlisted 
crewmen, Gunnery Sergeant Leroy N. Poulson and 
Lance Corporal John G. Phelps, leaped out of the 
helicopter and raced through enemy fire to help the 
wounded men. 

Captain Rupert E. Fairfield, Jr., the co-pilot, kill- 
ed three of the nearest VC with a burst from a M-60 
machine gun, then ran to help Poulson and Phelps 
drag the soldiers to the aircraft. Captain Pless 
hovered his UH-lE and sent streams of machine gun 
fire into the Viet Cong positions in the treeline. 
Under cover of his fire, the three crewmen pulled the 
wounded soldiers into the helicopter. Pless headed 
the dangerously overloaded aircraft out to sea. Four 
times the helicopter settled into the water. Each time 
Captain Pless skipped it back into the air. While the 
crew threw out all unnecessary gear to lighten the 
craft, Pless jettisoned the rocket pods. Gradually, 
the UH-IE gained altitude and limped back to the 
1st Hospital Company's landing pad at Chu Lai. In 
addition to rescuing the Americans, the crew receiv- 
ed credit for killing a confirmed total of 20 VC and 



probably killed another 38. Fairfield, Poulson, and 
Phelps each received the Navy Cross; Captain Pless 

The Da Nang press center provides the location for 
this photograph taken during a news conference on 
26 August following the dramatic flight that earned 
VMO-6's Capt Stephen W. Pless (second from left) 
his Medal of Honor. Others of the UH- IE crew, LCpl 
John G. Phelps, Capt Rupert E. Fairfield, Jr. , and 
GySgt Leroy N. Poulson, received the Navy Cross. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 1892 12 




SUPPORTING ARMS 



209 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370412 
A smoke grenade marks the landing zone as a member of a helicopter support team- 
brings in a CH-34D with supplies for the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines in Operation Shelby. 



received the Medal of Honor, the first awarded to a 
member of the 1st MAW for action in Vietnam.* 

While the armed helicopters participated in many 
dramatic exploits, the yeoman's share of the 
workload fell to the transport helicopters, the 
UH-34s and the CH-46s. In March of 1966, the 1st 
Marine Aircraft Wing's tactical /logistical airlift 
capability significantly increased with the arrival of 
the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter. It could carry a 
four-man crew and 17-20 combat-loaded troops, or 
4,000 pounds of cargo, in contrast to the five to 
seven troops, or 1,500-pound lift capacity of the ag- 
ing UH-34. The twin-engined, tandem-rotor 
transport had a retractable tail ramp, a 115-mile 
combat radius, and a top speed of about 145 knots. 
The Sea Knight was the only Marine helicopter in 



Vietnam armed with two .50-caliber machine guns.* 

The arrival of another aircraft in 1967 further im- 
proved Marine helicopter capabilities. On 8 January, 
a four-plane detachment of CH-53A Sea Stallions 
from HMH-463 joined MAG- 16 at Marble Moun- 
tain. They were the first increment of a phased 
replacement of the obsolescent CH-37s. By the end 
of the year, 36 of the big CH-53s operated in I 
Corps. These twin-turbine, single-rotor assault 
transports could carry an impressive internal cargo of 
8,000 pounds, but more significantly the "53A" had 
a six-ton external lift capability which permitted bat- 
tlefield salvage of disabled UH-34Ds and CH-46s. 
By the end of 1967, Marine Sea Stallions had retriev- 
ed more than 120 damaged aircraft which avoided 



*In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Pless, who flew 
over 700 combat missions in two tours in Vietnam, earned the 
Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star 
Medal, 32 Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, the 
Korean Order of Military Merit, and the Purple Heart. After 
returning to the U.S., this colorful Marine aviator died in a tragic 
motorcycle crash at Pensacola, Florida, in 1969- See Appendix D 
for Captain Pless' Medal of Honor citation. 



*Major General Norman J. Anderson has cautioned that there 
was a greater complexity behind this simple statement about two 
.30-caliber machine guns on helicopters. "This became standard, 
replacing the .30-caliber," he wrote, "only after extensive ex- 
perience proved the need for the range and impact of the heavier 
weapon. Issues such as this, and there were many in the ordnance 
and engineering areas, were important and should not be 
[overlooked] or you create the impression that aviation sailed 
through the war without problems." MajGen Norman J. Ander- 
son, Comments on draft ms, lOJulSl (Vietnam Comment file, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C.). 



210 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370575 
Infantrymen lean forward against the rotor wash and rush forward to unload supplies 
from a CH-46A Sea Knight helicopter in the 1st Marine Division's Operation Citrus. 



destroying them in place. Troop lift and ambulance 
capabilities also increased with the Sea Stallions' ar- 
rival; normal loads were 37 combat troops or 24 lit- 
ters. Fully loaded, the aircraft could accomplish mis- 
sions at ranges up to 200 miles at a comfortable 
cruise speed of 120 knots. 

The airrival of the "Super Bird," as the Marines 
quickly nicknamed the CH-53, was providential. In 
September III MAF grounded all CH-46s following 
several unexplained crashes. An on-site investiga- 
tion, conducted by a joint Naval Air Systems Com- 
mand/Boeing Vertol accident investigation team, 
revealed that structural failures were occurring in the 
area of the after pylon.* The team recommended 
structural and systems modifications to reinforce the 
rear rotor mount , as well as the installation of an in- 
dicator to detect excessive strain on critical parts of 
the aircraft. 



The entire modification program, requiring ap- 
proximately 1,000 man-hours per aircraft, occurred 
in three phases: (1) disassembly of the aircraft, (2) 
incorporation of the modifications, and (3) 

Aviation personnel at Dong Ha on 16 January look 
over one of the huge CH-33s from HMH-463 only 
eight days after the first detachment of four of the 
new helicopters arrived in South Vietnam for service 
with MAG- 16 at the air facility at Marble Mountain. 
3d MarDiv ComdC, January \%1 



*Lieutenant General Louis Metzger, a former assistant division 
commander of the 3d Marine Division, recently wrote his recollec- 
tions of the grounding of the CH-46s: "Several CH-46s had gone 
down in flight before this. One was observed by an assistant air of- 
ficer of the 3d Marine Division, a major [who was an] aviator. He 
had described seeing the tail fly off a CH-46 in flight. However, it 
is believed that [because of] a desire to accord the lost crew 
members the honor of dying in combat rather than in an accident, 
this observation was ignored. It wasn't until the accidents occured 
as stated in the text, that the CH-46s were grounded. LtGen Louis 
Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) (Vietnam Comment 
file, MCHC. Washington, D.C.) 




SUPPORTING ARMS 



211 




/" 



\ 




3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 
A CH-55, the Marine Corps' largest and most power- 
ful helicopter, retrieves a UH-34 downed in a mis- 
sion to the Con Thien combat base in December. 

reassembly and flight tests. Marines performed 
phases one and three; Boeing Vertol personnel com- 
pleted phase two. Okinawa served as the principal 
modification site because it was the nearest secure 
Marine base which could provide both adequate 
facilities and skilled civilian workers. The program 
modified 80 aircraft at MCAF Futema, Okinawa, 
while the remaining 25 aircraft, already undergoing 
normal overhaul in Japan, received their modifica- 
tions there. 

The Marines of HMM-262, commanded by Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Gregory A. Corliss, detached from 
the SLF to perform the Marine portion of the work. 
On 11 October, the Marines unloaded 40 CH-46s at 
Futema, and disassembly began immediately. Five 
days later, 114 Boeing Vertol specialists began phase 
two. By the end of December, the program had 
modified 89 aircraft and began phasing them back 
to the squadrons. The remaining 16 aircraft com- 
pleted the modification program in February 1968. 

Until the 46s returned. III MAF lost approximate- 
ly half its tactical /logistic airlift capability and had to 
find replacement helicopters. As soon as the Marine 
Corps learned the seriousness of the CH-46s' defect, 
it rushed 23 UH-34s from the United States by cargo 
planes. They arrived on 15 October and immediately 
entered battle, often flown by pilots from the down- 
ed CH-46 squadrons. Ten additional CH-53s 



entered the wing's inventory to further augment the 
lift capability in Vietnam. Finally, 31 U.S. Army 
UH-lDs of the 190th Aviation Company joined 
General Anderson's forces at Phu Bai until the Sea 
Knights returned to flight status.'^ 

The shifting of additional ground forces into the 
northern two provinces of I Corps during the fall of 
1967 increased the tempo of helicopter operations. 
During this period, the two main areas of enemy ac- 
tivity were the DMZ and the Que Son Basin south of 
Da Nang, but; as combat to the north intensified, 
MAG-36 at Chu Lai found itself further and further 
from the scene of Marine ground operations. As a 
result. General Anderson ordered MAG-36 to Phu 
Bai where it could better support 3d Marine Division 
operations. The first squadron, VMO-6, relocated on 
4 October and 11 days later Colonel Frank E. Wilson 
displaced his group headquarters from Ky Ha to Phu 
Bai. The next day. Colonel Wilson took over 
VMO-3, HMM-164, HMM-362, and MATCUs-62 
and -68 from Colonel Edwin O. Reed's MAG-16. At 
the same time, HMM-265, a MAG-36 CH-46 
squadron at Marble Mountain, passed to Colonel 
Reed's command. On 30 October, another UH-34 



A CH-46 A from HMM-164 lands on 2 March 1967 
to pick up infantrymen from the 3d Battalion, 4th 
Marines engaged in Operation Prairie II north of 
Cam Lo, while an escort helicopter circles overhead. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, March 1967 





m. 



212 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



ll» 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189791 
CH-34Ds, the mainstay of transport helicopter operations following grounding of the 
CH-46s for structural problems, land infantrymen in a dry paddy for Operation Essex. 



squadron, HMM-163, joined MAG- 36 from the USS 
Okinawa (LPH 3) and moved to the new airfield at 
Quang Tri.* By the end of the month, MAG- 36 oc- 
cupied its new home; only HMM-165 remained at 
Ky Ha, until space became available at Phu Bai in 
November. The relocation of MAG-36 proved to be 



*Before joining the SLF, HMM-163 had been at Phu Bai as part 
of MAG- 16. LtCol Horace A. Bruce, Comments on draft ms, 
I4jul81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

A CH-46A takes off after bringing supplies to an in- 
fantry unit on a hill top somewhere in Vietnam. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370584 





a wise decision, as events of early 1968 
demonstrated. 

Operational statistics indicate the sharply increas- 
ed scale of Marine helicopter squadrons' efforts in 
Vietnam during 1967. The sorties rate increased by 
more than 20 percent over that of 1966. In 1967, 1st 
MAW helicopters flew 510,595 sorties, carrying 
628,486 personnel and 70,651 tons of cargo. 

Artillery 

In January of 1967, the Marines had the entire 
family of Marine Corps artillery — light, medium, 
and heavy — in I Corps. The method of employment 
of these weapons differed little from World War II 
and Korea: direct support of a specific unit or 
general support of divisional units. 

Division-level light artillery, the 4.2-inch mortar 
or the 107mm M30 mortar and the 105mm MlOlAl 
howitzer, provided direct support of infantry units. 
Division Medium artillery, the 155mm M114A1 
howitzer (towed) and the 155mm M109 self- 
propelled (SP) howitzer, were the general support 
weapons.* Force artillery elements attached to the 



*The Marine Corps replaced 155mm Ml 14 A Is in the Marine 
divisional artillery regiments with the 155mm M109/SP just 
before the the Vietnam conflict. As the need for more artillery 
developed, the Marine Corps shipped the old towed weapons to 
Vietnam and formed provisional batteries. Personnel and re- 
quired equipment came from artillery battalions already there. 
Ironically, the older M114A1 enhanced the overall mobility of the 
divisional 155mm capability. The heavy tracked M109/SP was 
essentially roadbound and served in a "fortress artillery" role, 
while the lighter M114A1 could move both by helicopter and 
truck. 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



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214 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A421672 
A maintenance team from HMM-163 rigs a hoist sling to a CH-46A sitting in a moun- 
tain stream northwest ofChu Lai on 12 May. Enemy ground fire had set the aircraft on 
fire and the pilot, Capt James F. Pleva, force-landed in the stream, dousing the flames. 



artillery regiments provided increased range and 
delivery capabilities." Force artillery included the 
155mm M53 self-propelled gun and the 8-inch M55 
self-propelled howitzer. The Marine Corps replaced 
the M55 during the year with the new MHO self- 
propelled model. 

Although the basic techniques of artillery employ- 
ment in Vietnam differed little from those used 
elsewhere, local circumstances required certain 
refinements. Probably the most difficult problem 
facing Marine artillerymen and the infantry they 
supported was the need to minimize civilian 
casualties and property destruction, while still fur- 
nishing adequate fire support. Strongly worded 
MACV directives, further amplified by instructions 
from III MAP and the divisions, enjoined restraint 
and careful fire planning. These required careful 
selection of helicopter landing zones and scheduling 
artillery and air strikes with the goal of keeping both 
Marine and civilian casualties at the lowest possible 
level, especially in heavily populated areas such as 
those around Da Nang. Firing into populated areas, 
using reconnaissance by fire, and planning harass- 
ment and interdiction fires presented significant 
problems. The Marine artillerymen continually 
balanced the possible tactical advantages against the 
danger to long-term pacification goals. When 



Marine units planned operations in coordination 
with Vietnamese province and district chiefs, a 
liaison officer from the Marines or a Marine or Army 
advisor stayed at the district headquarters to coor- 

An unidentified Marine helicopter crewman smokes 
a cigarette beside his M-60 machine gun mount dur- 
ing a quiet flight in a CH-33A in December 1967. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370848 




SUPPORTING ARMS 



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216 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370303 
Bystanders cover their ears on 25 June as MaJGen DonnJ. Robertson, the commanding 
general of the 1st Marine Division, fires from a self-propelled 133mm howitzer the 
30,000th artillery round shot by the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines in the Vietnam War. 



dinate fire support, as well as other aspects of the 
operations. ARVN liaison officers performed a 
similar function at American headquarters.* 

These operational considerations, formalized as 
rules of engagement, were necessary restrictions but 
did not deprive any American unit of the right to de- 
fend itself against hostile action. Though planning 
helped to avoid the problem of noncombatant 
casualties, sound judgment during operations by 
both field commanders and fire support centers re- 
mained the final determinant. 

Another technique of fire coordination, the "sav- 
a-plane," appeared because of the crowded air space 
over Vietnam, particularly over Route 1 along the 
coast of I Corps. Any artillery unit operating near the 
road contended with innumerable aircraft flying 
through its zone of action. The competition for 
space to shoot and space to fly was a constant 
headache for both participants. The 1st MAW con- 
sidered the established practice of restrictive fire 
planning too burdensome because of the episodic 
nature of artillery firing. As a result. III MAF in- 
troduced the sav-a-plane system as a technique for 
keeping friendly aircraft safe from allied artillery 
while, at the same time, permitting liberal use of 
both arms. 



Sav-a-plane was simply a radio procedure which 
told a pilot where and when artillery or naval gunfire 
was shooting. From that point on, it was the in- 
dividual pilot's responsibility to stay clear of the fir- 
ing area. When a battalion or regimental fire sup- 
port coordination center (FSCC) initiated a sav-a- 
plane, the message went to the division 
FSCC/DASC for broadcast to all pilots in the area. 
The elements of a sav-a-plane transmission included 
target area, location of the firing unit, time of firing, 
and maximum trajectory ordinate. Though the 
system was not foolproof, artillery and naval gunfire 
hit very few, if any, aircraft.* 

Supplemental safeguards to the sav-a-plane 
system included air sentries at battery positions and, 
whenever possible, collocation of the artillery liaison 
officers with infantry battalion forward air con- 
trollers. The latter technique ensured that all 



*Forty Marines augmented the U.S. Army advisory staff with 
the ARVN in I Corps during 1967. 



*"I don't know that any aircraft has ever been hit by artillery 
fire," commented Colonel Edwin S. Schick, a former commander 
of the 12th Marines. "There was some talk that an Army outfit did 
hit a plane. ... So long as the proper fusing is maintained . . . 
[and the] coordination principle of the restrictive fire plan is 
adhered to, no harm will come to our air brethren." Col Edwin S. 
Schick, Jr., Comments on draft ms, llJunSl (Vietnam Comment 
file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) Current doctrine does not in- 
clude the sav-a-plane concept. Statistical studies support the "big 
sky-small bullet" principle by indicating very little probability of 
artillery hitting an aircraft in flight. 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



217 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189158 

Gen Wallace M. Greene, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, listens as Col 
William L. Dick, commander of the 4th Marines, points to explosions on a nearby hill 
demonstrating artillery support available to his regiment from the 12th Marines. The 
latter was one of the largest artillery regiments ever fielded under Marine com^mand. 

elements kept abreast of artillery firing and also per- 
mitted immediate response for lifting or shifting of 
fires. 

The employment of individual batteries in Viet- 
nam differed from all previous American war ex- 
periences. A single battery often provided the sup- 
port normally expected from an artillery battalion. 
The individual 105mm and the provisional 155mm 
towed batteries possessed the capability to deploy to 
widely separated positions, each with its own fire di- 
rection and communication capability. Each battery 
maintained its own 360-degree (6,400 mills to ar- 
tillerymen) firing capability. Often the battery fire 
direction center coordinated its own reinforcing fires 
and those of nearby ARVN artillery as well. Marine 
artillery batteries also made increased use of 
helicopter displacement. This practice required bat- 
tery personnel to break down the guns, section gear, 
and ammunition into helicopter-transportable loads 
on short notice. These procedures required greater 
versatify of artillerymen in Vietnam than in the 
Korean War and World War II. 

Traditional unit descriptions provided misleading 
indicators of artillery capabilities in Vietnam. When 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A370317 
The fire direction center of Battery G, 5d Battalion, 
11th Marines receives and computes a fire mission. 



218 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A800970 
A Marine M.-98 107mm "Howtar, " a 4.2-inch heavy mortar mounted on a 75mm pack- 
howitzer chassis, awaits afire mission in support of the Special Landing Force in Opera- 
tion Deckhouse VI, a subsidiary of Task Force X-Ray's Operation Desoto near Due Pho. 



the tactical situation dictated, the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion, for example, formed provisional batteries using 
a mix of artillery calibers. At times these were closer 
to being "mini-battalions" than conventional bat- 
teries. Such practices in task organization also af- 
fected the artillery battalions; at times they assumed 
the size of "mini-regiments.""^ 

Fast and accurate response traditionally provided 
the measure of good artillery support. If contact ap- 
peared imminent, the infantry battalion's forward 
observer notified the FDC, where chart operators 
prepared to plot the mission while the computer 
stood ready to provide gun data. The artillery liaison 
officer in the battalion FSCC then could arrange for 
a sav-a-plane to avoid losing time in getting 
clearance to fire. As the same time, word passed to 
the gun crews of the impending mission. To ensure 
accuracy of firing data, both the battery and bat- 
talion FDCs computed the fire missions, providing a 
double check on the information sent to the guns. 

In July 1967, a new piece of equipment, the M18 
Field Artillery Digtal Computer (FADC), arrived at 
artillery battalion FDCs. Prior to its arrival, the 
Marines manually computed all firing data computa- 
tions. FADC was supposed to accelerate the process 
of providing the batteries with accurate firing data 
and decrease the time between the initial request 



and the impact of the first round on the target. 

FADC did not favorably impress either Colonel 
Edwin S. Schick, Jr., or Lieutenant Colonel Clayton 
V. Hendricks, who respectively commanded the 
12th and 11th Marines. Colonel Schick noted that "a 
well-disciplined and trained fire direction team 
[would] out perform [FADC] with speed, reliability, 
and all-weather capability . . . and no material 
failures." Lieutenant Colonel Hendricks re- 
membered that the 11th Marines continued to com- 
pute manually and used FADC only as a check on 
the results. However, those doing the manual 
calculations often had to wait on FADC. In addi- 
tion, FADC depended upon electricity from 
undependable power generators. '^ 

On-call fires provided another means used to 
reduce reaction time. When an infantry unit 
operated in enemy-controlled areas, preplotted on- 
call fires along the route of advance were common 
practice. To execute the mission, the artillerymen 
used previously prepared firing data. Last minute 
clearance was the only requirement before firing the 
mission. Marines often resolved such delays by 
employing a long-term umbrella or area type sav-a- 
plane which permitted the battalion FSCC to retain 
local firing control. In such cases, they did not need 
higher-level firing clearance. On-call preparations, 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



219 



"almost instant artillery," were particularly effective 
as a counter to meeting engagements and ambushes. 

Other uses of artillery involved flushing the 
enemy from concealed positions, denying his use of 
escape routes, and deceiving him as to the direction 
of attack. Night employment included illumination 
of avenues of approach, harassing and interdiction 
fires, and navigational orientation for friendly 
elements. The Marines also used jungle applications 
dating back to the island campaigns of World War 
II. A lost patrol could reorient itself by requesting a 
marking round on a nearby grid line intersection. 
Another common jungle technique was the use of 
artillery fire to guide units toward their objectives. 
Following the advancing fire by only a few hundred 
meters, the infantry worked their way forward while 
the artillery forward observer adjusted the firing to 
suit the situation. 

The Sting Ray concept represented a novel innova- 
tion which blended maximum use of supporting 
arms and the talents of III M AF's reconnaissance per- 
sonnel. As III MAF initiated large-unit operations 
beyond assigned TAORs, and as TAORs increased in 
size to accommodate the operational tempo, recon- 
naissance teams operated at ever increasing ranges 
from their battalion command posts. The lightly 

The crew of a 105mm howitzer from Battery C, 4th 
Battalion, 12th Marines, prepares to respond to afire 
mission in support of infantrymen engaged in 
Operation Chinook about 12 miles north of Hue. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, January 1967 

Hi,. 4> ,l« 




armed and equipped teams usually landed by 
helicopter at points near their operational areas and 
then moved stealthily to a designated observation 
post. Their primary mission was to gather in- 
telligence in areas of suspected heavy enemy move- 
ment, but the Marines was soon learned the teams 
could call in artillery fire and air strikes and remain 
undetected by the enemy. This led to the evolution 
of Sting Ray which caused substantial enemy 
casualties at the risk of a very few Marines. Enemy 
troops, away from the main battle areas, relaxed, 
and feeling relatively safe, moved with less caution 
and often concentrated in large numbers. Alert 
Sting Ray teams exacted a heavy toll on unwary 
Communist units by hitting them with accurate ar- 
tillery fire and precision air strikes. 

For the Sting Ray teams, artillery served both as a 
defensive and an offensive weapon. If the enemy 
detected the team, artillery provided a ring of fire 
around its position while helicopters moved in for 
the rescue. Though enemy units hotly contested 
many extractions a surprisingly large number of 
Sting Ray teams escaped with only minor casualties, 
while Communist losses multiplied greatly from the 
heavy concentration of fire. To overrun a Sting Ray 
position, the Communists had to concentrate their 
forces; as soon as helicopters extracted the team, the 
abandoned site became a killing zone. 

When the North Vietnamese sent large units 
across the DMZ during the fall of 1966, more 
American artillery units moved into the region, in- 
cluding the U.S. Army's 2d Battalion, 94th Artillery 
with its 175mm self-propelled guns. These heavy 
weapons, with a range of 32,700 meters, added a 
new dimension to III MAF artillery support. By 
March of 1967 the 11th and 12th Marines provided 
artillery coverage from the Gulf of Tonkin to Laos 
and substantially reduced enemy freedom of move- 
ment. 

The U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 40th Artillery also 
arrived to reinforce Marine artillery during 1967. Its 
M108 self-propelled 105mm howitzers had a 
360-degree traverse capability and could respond 
rapidly to calls for fire from any direction. In 
recognition of its quick response and rapid rate of 
fire, the 3d Division Marines called the 40th's Bat- 
tery A "Automatic Alpha." 

Artillery strength further increased in I Corps dur- 
ing 1967 following the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 
13th Marines; the 1st Armored Amphibian Tractor 
Company (105mm howitzers); the 5th 155mm Gun 



220 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189 143 
Battery A, 2d Battalion, 94th Artillery, one of several Army units sent north to provide 
needed artillery reinforcements to III MAF, fires a 1 15 mm gun into the A Shau valley in 
Operation Cumberland in August. The operation closed at the start of the monsoon. 



Battery; a platoon from the 5th 8-inch Howitzer Bat- 
tery; and another battahon of Army 175mm guns, 
the 8th Battahon, 4th Artillery. By the end of the 
year, 35 Marine artillery batteries from the 11th, 
12th, and 13th Marines, as well as four separate 
Force Troops and 10 Army batteries supported 
Marine operations in I Corps.* 

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the war, 
from an artilleryman's point of view, was the massive 
supporting arms effort employed to counter enemy 
artillery and rockets in the DMZ region. In the 
spring of 1967, the NVA introduced rockets as well 
as medium and heavy artillery to support actions 
there. As the year progressed, the North Vietnamese 
employed more and larger-caliber weapons. Accor- 
ding to intelligence on the enemy order of battle, 
the North Vietnamese had approximately 130 ar- 
tillery pieces in the area north of the Ben Hai River, 
including 152mm gun howitzers with a range in ex- 
cess of 10 miles. Marine positions at Cua Viet, Gio 
Linh, Dong Ha, Con Thien, Cam Lo, and Camp 
Carroll suffered frequent attacks. These bombard- 



*K Battery, 4th Battalion, 12th Marines remained on Okinawa 
awaiting gun repairs and equipment. 



ments threatened not only the Marine forward posi- 
tions, but also lines of communication, command 
posts, airfields, and logistic installations. 

There were many difficulties in countering the in- 
creased enemy artillery acitivity, but the biggest pro- 
blem involved determining the precise location of 
the enemy weapons. The Marines had limited 
ground observation because of the political /military 
prohibition of operations in the DMZ, and NVA 
missile and antiaircraft fire challenged aerial obser- 
vation. Intelligence and damage assessments remain- 
ed, at best, skimpy. The available assessments came 
from diversified sources. The prolonged collecting 
and collating time, however, produced targeting 
results which often were too old to be worthwhile. 
Conversely, the Communists knew the exact loca- 
tions of Marine forces and installations. The fact that 
the Marines occupied prominent terrain further 
simplified the enemy's observation task. 

The Marines response to the expanded NVA ar- 
tillery and rocket threat involved a pronounced in- 
crease in counterbattery fire, augmented by naval 
gunfire and aviation. Ill MAF increased Marine ar- 
tillery along the DMZ to 84 of the 180 pieces 
available to the 3d Division. In August, USAF B-52s 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



221 







222 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 189466 
Soldiers of Battery G, 65 th Artillery, equipped with truck-mounted, quad-. 30 machine 
guns, stand by to escort a Marine "Rough Rider" truck convoy in I Corps in October. 



added their immense bomb loads to the battle 
against the Communist artillery. The 3d Marine 
Division staff initiated an intensive effort to improve 
the counterbattery program and installed new radar 
and sound-flash ranging equipment at key locations. 
An Army unit, the Target Acquisition Battery from 
the 2d Battalion, 26th Artillery worked to improve 
target information. The Dong Ha FSCC received 
more personnel and communications equipment. 
Because the Seventh Air Force controlled fire 
clearances north of the DMZ, it sent an Air Force 
liaison officer to the Marine FSCC to speed up fire 
mission clearances. On 28 September 1967, the Ma- 
rines established a fire support information center 
(FSIC) that employed data processing equipment, to 
speed collection and collation of target information 
from all 3d Marine Division, III MAF, and Seventh 
Air Force sources. Additional observation aircraft 
were made available, nearly doubling the number of 
hours of aerial observation over the DMZ area. 

The Marines initiated large-scale, joint counter- 
battery and interdiction operations such as 
Ropeyarn, Headshed, Neutralize, and Eradicate. Ar- 
tillery, naval gunfire, and air strikes blanketed all 
known and suspected firing and support positions 
north of the DMZ. For example, during Operation 



Headshed, both artillery and naval gunfire hit 
enemy positions, and air strikes followed to catch the 
survivors of the earlier bombardment. 

As a result of these measures, enemy fire declined 
steadily from a September peak, but thfe Com- 
munists retained their capability to disrupt military 
activity and cause significant allied casualties. 

The DMZ experience highlighted the necessity of 
relying on supporting arms to offset the disadvan- 
tage of operating next to an enemy sanctuary. The 
problem of neutralizing enemy artillery remained 
one of the most frustrating dilemmas of the war. 
Though supporting arms eased the situation, 
political considerations ruled out the only satisfac- 
tory solution, seizure of the enemy guns. 

For the Marines not involved in the war along the 
DMZ, base defense remained one of the most wor- 
risome responsibilities. Beginning in February, the 
threat of rocket attack menaced all I Corps bases. At 
Da Nang the enemy could launch rockets from any 
point in a 200-square-mile belt surrounding the city. 
Five thousand Marines participated in the defence of 
this TAOR, but the high mobility of the enemy 
rocket enabled the Communists to maintain the 
threat. To combat the rockets, the 11th Marines 



SUPPORTING ARMS 



223 




3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 
An artilleryman covers his ears and turns his back 
after dropping a round down the tube of a 4.2-inch 
mortar in a position at Dong Ha in December 1967. 



repositioned firing batteries so that by July, at least 
two batteries covered each part of the Da Nang 
TAOR. Observation aircraft flew constant patrols 
over the rocket belt.^° Additionally, artillerymen 
manned strategically located observation posts 
throughout the belt, but the threat persisted. 

Ill MAF artillery, totaling 49 Marine and Army 
batteries at the end of the year, faced a vast array of 
tactical and technical problems. Counterbattery fire 
across the DMZ, neutralization of the Da Nang 
rocket threat; coverage of numerous, simultaneous 
ground operations; and countless harassment and in- 
terdiction missions provide samples of the complex 
gunnery problems confronting III MAF artillery dur- 
ing 1967. As an example of the quantity of artillery 
support needed, the Communists fired 42,190 
rounds during the 1967 artillery duel, while the III 
MAF Marine and attached Army gunners replied 
with 281,110 rounds. 



Rocket Attack 

Da Nang Airbase 

14 July 1967 

meters 1000 2000 3000 4000 

See Reference Map, Section 21 




ROCKET FIRING 
POSITIONS 



CHAPTER 14 

Logistics 

upgrading the Logistics System — Problems with the M-16 Rifle 
Navy Support — Marine Corps Engineers 



Upgrading the Logistics System 

When 1967 began, the Marine logistics system in 
support of the Vietnam War was still undergoing 
growing pains. The means to fight were available; 
however, as Brigadier General Louis Metzger noted, 
there were many weaknesses, not excluding the pro- 
vision of such necessities as socks and uniforms. 
"While CG, 9th MAB," he wrote, "I was appalled at 
the condition of the Marines and their equipment 
when they arrived on Okinawa [from Vietnam], My 
observations in-country [as assistant commander of 
the 3d Marine Division] did nothing to dispel my 
opinion."' 

The Marines landed in March 1965 with logistic 
support tailored for their initial requirements; only 
592 personnel provided motor transport, supply, 
and maintenance services. As III MAF's role in I 
Corps expanded, the logistic organization increased 




FLC ComdC, December 1967 



The headquarters of the Force Logistic Command {above) sits almost surrounded by 
water while (below) parts of the maintenance and storage area stretch toward Da Nang. 

FLC ComdC, December 1967 




LOGISTICS 



225 




PLC ComdC, July 1967 
GySgt D. B. Durrell, assigned to the inventory sec- 
tion of Supply Battalion, checks some of the material 
stored by PLC at Camp Brooks in Da Nang in July. 

both in scope and size and led to the creation of the 
Force Logistic Command. FLC reahgnment started 
with the transfer of the 1st Force Service Regiment 
from Camp Pendleton to Da Nang on 15 February 
1967. Although only the 1st FSR headquarters colors 
arrived, involving no personnel or equipment move- 
ment from Camp Pendleton, this transfer permitted 
the FLC to restructure its elements to conform with a 
service regiment's table of organization and equip- 
ment provisions. The required personnel were 
already in Vietnam, but FLC needed a new structure 
to administer an inventory which had grown to more 
than 60,000 supply items. By 28 February the 
Marine logistic organization in I CTZ, which was to 
remain essentially unchanged until the end of the 
year, was: 

Dong Ha: Force Logistic Support Unit 1 

Phu Bai: Force Logistic Support Group Alpha, 
3d Service Regiment 

Da Nang: Force Logistic Command Head- 
quarters, 1st Force Service Regiment 

Chu Lai: Force Logistic Support Group Bravo, 
1st Service Battalion 



To provide sustained logistical support to III MAP 
organizations; to provide staff augmentation and self- 
sustaining, balanced, mobile logistic support elements in 
support of III MAP units up to and including brigade size 
when deployed on independent missions; and to provide 
logistic support to other organizations as may be directed.^ 

By 31 December, FLC's authorized strength had 
grown to 9,551 men. Elsewhere, the Marine Corps 
adjusted existing tables of organization and force 
levels to accommodate the compelling needs in I 
Corps. The realignment provided a III MAF "tooth- 
to-tail" ratio of 6.5 to 1. This ratio measured the 
relative numbers between Marine combat and com- 
bat support troops to combat service support troops 
in Vietnam. 

Providing supplies and services to the Vietnam 
Marine was a worldwide Marine Corps logistic net- 
work which spanned the United States from Albany, 
Georgia, and Barstow, California, across the Pacific 
to Hawaii, then Okinawa, and finally to I Corps. 
Most of the supplies flowed directly into the combat 
zone; the rest stopped at the Marines' supply base on 
Okinawa, thus providing a "surge tank" that could 
respond rapidly to demands from the units in RVN. 
The 3d Force Service Regiment (FSR) on Okinawa re- 
mained the nerve center of the Marine logistic 
system in the western Pacific. Continuously exchang- 

The operator of one of the most important pieces of 
equipment in the Marine logistics system, a rough- 
terrain forklift , carefully removes cargo from the rear 
of a KC-I30F at the air freight facility at Dong Ha. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 190069 




FLC Strength totaled 5,500 men; its mission was: 



226 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




FLO ComdC, October 1967 
A Marine operates the keyboard in air-conditioned 
comfort surrounded by other components of the 
IBM-360 computer used by the Force Logistic Com- 
mand to fill over 63,000 requisitions each month. 

ing computerized information with III MAF, this ac- 
tivity processed 1,333,140 III MAF requisitions bet- 
ween January 1966 and September 1967, filling 82 
percent of them from stores on hand. The remainder 
passed to the Marine Corps Supply Center at 
Barstow, or in some cases to the Naval Supply 
Centers at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or Oakland, 
California. During this period, the Okinawa Marines 
shipped 19,521 short tons of material to Vietnam by 
air and 78,949 measurement tons by ship. 

The focal point for all logistic support flowing into 
III MAF was the Force Logistic Command (FLC), 
commanded by Brigadier General James E. Herbold, 
Jr. FLC handled all supplies and equipment going 
to, or coming from, III MAF, as well as performing 
maintenance of equipment and facilities. 

This logistic pipeline was a two-way system; as it 
moved new equipment into combat, damaged and 
worn items headed in the other direction for repair, 
salvage, or disposal. The 3d FSR acted as both a coor- 
dinating agency and a rebuilding center. Work 
repairs occurred either in Marine shops on Okinawa, 
at the Public Works Center, Yokosuka, Japan, or in 
the continental United States. Between January 1966 



and September 1967, 3d Force Service Regiment 
repair facilities completed work orders on 77,286 
items of combat equipment. 

Frequent shifting of units to new locations, the 
rapid pace of the fighting, and bad weather all com- 
bined to aggravate supply problems. FLC introduced 
new supply management techniques to accelerate 
delivery of critical materials. The first of these was 
the Red Ball system introduced in September 1965. 
It sped the delivery of problem items through the 
normal distribution system by means of individual 
personal attention and continuing foUovvoip actions. 
When III MAF designated an item as Red Ball, FLC 
notified all supply agencies in Fleet Marine Force, 
Pacific. Thereafter, designated action officers at each 
command level monitored the status of each Red 
Ball item and took every possible measure to speed 
delivery. By the end of September 1967, over 5,700 
items had received the Red Ball treatment since the 
program's inception. 

FLC introduced another special system in 1965 
which it called the Critipac program. Under this pro- 
gram, each month the Marine Corps Supply Center 
at Barstow provided every major III MAF unit with 
one box of rapidly expended supplies which it re- 
quired on a routine basis. Critipac eliminated the 
process of requisitioning and the inherent wait for 
the supply system to respond. 

These two 5-ton trucks, one heavily damaged by an 
enemy mine and the other rebuilt to fully-usable 
condition, illustrate the heavy maintenance 
capabilities of PLC's motor transport repair shops. 
~~~~-~^ FLC ComdC, August 1967 




LOGISTICS 



227 




3d MarDiv ComdC, January 1967 
A Rough Rider convoy of 150 vehicles enroute to Phu Bat moves through the Hat Van 
Pass, the only land route across the mountains that reached the sea north of Da Nang. 



Repair parts and similar expendable items, usually 
in the Class II supply category, continued to be a 
headache during 1967. No matter how many of 
these items flowed into Vietnam through the supply 
system, the demand seemed insatiable. The explana- 
tion rests with the wide variety of items required, 
86,000 during 1967, as well as the high usage rate. 
The increased tempo of combat operations and harsh 
weather conditions played a significant role in the 
rapid expenditure of supplies and equipment. This 
increased the number of requisitions submitted each 
month within III MAF. The number rose from only 
2,500 in April 1965 to 70,959 in October 1967. 

Enemy action also influenced supply levels and 
created sudden shortages. One of the most dramatic 
incidents of this nature occurred on 3 September 
when enemy artillery hit Dong Ha combat base, 
touching off one of the most spectacular series of ex- 
plosions in the war. The initial blasts damaged 
seventeen helicopters. Force Logistic Support Unit 
I's bulk fuel storage farm went up in flames. The 
enemy fire destroyed the main ammunition storage 
area; 15,000 short tons of vitally needed ammuni- 
tion vanished. The explosions continiied for more 
than four hours and people as far south as Phu Bai, 
more than 40 miles away, could see the enormous 
column of smoke. 

Replacing the destroyed ammunition and the 
bulk fuel system while continuing normal supply 
operations plus providing building materials for con- 
struction of the "McNamara Line" represented 
monumental tasks. ^ As an interim measure, the men 
of Force Logistic Support Unit 1 established a drum 
refueling point immediately after the attack. This 



functioned until engineers completed another bulk 
fuel farm at Dong Ha a week later. The ammunition 
situation was better. Fortunately, two small, alter- 
nate supply points in the immediate Dong Ha area 
survived the attack. Quantities of artillery and other 
ammunition remained limited, however, until 
emergency sea and airlifts replenished the 
dangerously low stocks. Bad weather, heavy seas, 
and flooding of the Dong Ha LCU ramp during the 
period of 17-23 September complicated the resupply 
effort. The Marines circumvented this untimely 
development by offloading munitions at Hue and 
then moving them by truck to Dong Ha. Concur- 

A forklift, mired to the axles in m-ud created by 
monsoon rains in January, sits in the Force Logistic 
Support Group Alpha open storage lot at Da Nang. 

FLC ComdC, January 1967 




228 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



rently, they started construction of new dumps at 
Quang Tri City, well beyond enemy weapons' range. 
Luckily, the Communists did not capitalize on the 
disaster. 

Enemy artillery fire in October almost caused 
another serious setback to these resupply efforts. For- 
tunately, the immediate efforts of three Seabees and 
four Marines, one of whom was a general officer, 
prevented another disaster. "On 29 October our 
second and smaller ammunition dump in Dong Ha 
was hit by enemy fire," recalled General Metzger. 
"Knowing we simply could not lose it, three 
Marines, three Seabees, and I put out the fire."'** 

Another of FLC's inherited missions involved per- 
sonnel management. By 1967, the task of processing 
personnel to and from the western Pacific had grown 
to prodigious proportions. Over 191,000 Marines re- 
quired processing during 1967. Approximately 
97,000 went by aircraft to Vietnam and 7,872 arriv- 
ed in surface shipping; 82,000 flew back to the 
United States and another 4,276 traveled home by 
ship. This complex evolution required the writing of 
orders, rosters, and schedules; and administering 
physical examinations, baggage inspections, troop 
handling, and billeting at transient facilities and 
processing centers reaching from South Vietnam 



*Each of the seven received the Bronze Star Medal for their ef- 
forts in saving the ammunition dump. 



back through Okinawa to El Toro and Camp 
Pendleton in California. In addition, all Marine 
posts and stations faced the tasks of filling outbound 
quotas and absorbing returnees. 

At first, the main control center for the stream of 
Marines flowing through the western Pacific remain- 
ed at Camp McTureous, Okinawa. In mid- 1966 this 
activity moved to Camp Hansen, Okinawa to accom- 
modate the increasing two-way personnel flow. By 
early 1967, the Transient Battalion, commanded by 
Lieutenant Colonel Donald K. Cliff, processed as 
many as 25,000 troops in a single month. This com- 
plicated operation included accounting for all 
hospitalized casualties and expediting emergency 
leave personnel movement by arranging for these 
Marines' transportation, clothing, and pay, as well as 
many other services. Computerization sped such in- 
volved operations as the modification of orders of 
personnel still in transit. By 1967, the Transient Bat- 
talion reduced the average holding time for tran- 
sients at Camp Hansen to about 40 hours. The tran- 
sient program also involved the classification and 
storage of excess baggage and clothing in 3d FSR's 
climate-controlled warehouse. The hard-working 
troop handlers and administrators of the Transient 
Battalion received little praise, but their long hours 
of demanding work were as vital to the support of 
the Marines in I Corps as food and ammunition. 

The Air Delivery Platoon of FLC was one of the 



Newly arrived Marine replacements await processing in front of a long line of tropical 
huts at the Force Logistic Command's transient facility in July at the Da Nang airfield. 

FLC ComdC, July 1967 




LOGISTICS 



229 




FLC ComdC, April 1967 

Feeding the thousands of Marines assigned to III MAF required facilities as large and ef- 
ficient as many stateside commerical establishments. Some of the average of 2,392 
loaves of bread provided each day by the bakery sit on cooling racks at Phu Bai. A Viet- 
namese civilian (right), one of 33 employed in PLC's milk plant, analyzes a sample of 
the more than 40,000 pints of reconsituted milk produced each day in April 1967. 



FLC ComdC, July 1967 



more unusual Marine logistic units. The members of 
this specially trained 33-man platoon were graduates 
of the parachute school at Fort Benning, Georgia, as 
well as the parachute rigger school at Fort Lee, 
Virginia. The platoon supported requests for aerial 
delivery of supplies throughout I Corps. During 
September and October, the platoon rendered 
especially valuable service during the aerial resupply 
of the 26th Marines at Khe Sanh. Because of subsur- 
face water damage, landing on Khe Sanh airstrip 
had become extremely hazardous for transport 
planes. Beginning in late August, the Air Delivery 
Platoon helped airdrop large quantities of supplies 
to the Marines at Khe Sanh during repairs to the 
runway. During the more than two months the strip 
remained closed, the Air Delivery Platoon made air- 
drops on 40 days, handling an average of 51 short 
tons per day, more than double its normal, rated 
capacity. 

At the end of 1967, to improve logistic support 
and keep pace with the northward movement of III 
MAF combat elements, FLC emphasis shifted to nor- 
thern I Corps. Force Logistic Support Group Bravo 



moved from Chu Lai to Dong Ha, leaving Supply 
Company (-)(Reinforced) as the agency responsible 
for logistic support of Marine elements in the Chu 
Lai area. 

Problems with the M-16 Rifle 

Problems with the M-16 rifle posed a logistics 
burden of staggering proportions for III MAF. After 
the heavy fighting at Khe Sanh in April and May a 
furor developed over reported deficiencies in the 
newly issued M-16. Many Marines lost confidence in 
the weapon, creating a situation which had a 
definite impact on combat operations and morale.^ 
The issue generated considerable reaction in the 
American press and Congress. Some Marines con- 
tributed to the furor by spreading exaggerated ac- 
counts of problems with the M-16, as described by 
General Metzger: 

... a congressional investigating team of two con- 
gressmen . . . arrived on the scene. It was my unhappy du- 
ty to escort them to units along the DMZ. If it weren't so 
serious it would have been laughable. They insisted on 
questioning individual Marines with no officers and NCOs 
present, I suppose to ensure they got the truth, without 
command influence. The result was that they were fed the 



230 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




^ 



PLC ComdC, July 1967 
Off-duty Marines watch a 20-lap race organized by 
the Force Logistic Command on 4 July as part of ef- 
forts to provide diversified recreation to III MAF. 







PLC ComdC, July 1967 
Marines enroute to the United States in July 1967 on 
government transportation line up at the airline 
ticket office at the FLC transit facility in Da Nang to 
buy tickets from the west coast to their homes. 



Security forces' aerial flares, photographed by a time exposure as they drift over Camp 
Brooks, serve as a blunt reminder of the nearness of PLC's Marines to the dangers of war. 

FLC ComdC, August 1967 




LOGISTICS 



231 



most awful line of "hog wash" imaginable. Tall tales of 
heroic actions, patrols wiped out, etc., all due to the M-16 
rifle, but which according to the sergeant major of one 
unit involved, had never taken place. The young Marines 
had a field day.* 

The main criticism was that the rifle jammed; it 
would not extract spent cartridges. Ill MAF con- 
ducted numerous field tests and studies to deter- 
mine if the weapon was faulty and, if so, what could 
be done about it. Much of the evidence pointed to 
the absolute necessity of keeping the weapon im- 
maculately clean, mainly because of the extremely 
fine tolerances of its moving parts and the tendency 
of rounds to bend in the chamber. The studies cited 
dirty ammunition and poor cleaning methods as the 
major reasons for malfunctions. Commanders at 
every level hammered away at the traditional Marine 
theme of frequent weapon cleaning, which had been 
less important when armed with the M-14 rifle with 
its chrome-plated chamber and bore. 

Even this was not always adequate. "The earlier 
[M-16] weapons — even when cleaned to usual stan- 



KAdm Thomas R. Weschler, commander of the 
Naval Support Activity, Da Nang discusses his com- 
mand and its capabilities with Gen Wallace M. 
Greene, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, 
on board a small craft in Da Nang harbor in January. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A188112 





Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189370 
Two large cargo ships unload at the Naval Support 
Activity 's deepwater piers at the Da Nang harbor. 

dards (not always possible in any sustained combat) 
still developed microscopic 'pits' in the chamber," 
recalled Colonel James C. Short. "The [rifles] would 
then fail to extract, usually at an awkward time."' 

When further investigation revealed that the pro- 
blem could be alleviated by changing the chambers, 
the FLC faced the urgent task of modifying all 
Marine M-l6s. It set up an assembly line and re- 
placed all of the original chamber assemblies with 
new ones having a chrome coating. This modifica- 
tion reduced chamber friction, making extraction 
more reliable. At the same time, FLC installed a 
modified buffer group to reduce the cyclic rate of 
fire. The M-16's teething problems plagued FLC for 
the rest of the year, and a final solution waited until 
1968. 

The controversy over the new rifle had other long- 
term side effects that affected III MAF's combat ef- 
fectiveness and logistic posture. These effects 
originated from the policy that each Marine would 
test fire his rifle before departing on a patrol. "So, 
obeying orders, each Marine dutifully fired his 
weapon regularly before each patrol," recalled 
General Metzger, "which depleted our ammunition 
supply and conditioned the Marines to shooting 
without aiming, so that the standard of marksman- 
ship in combat dropped sharply."^ 

Navy Support 
Throughout 1967, the Naval Support Activity 



232 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



*«V 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A193811 
A Navy medium landing craft (LCM-8), with folding cots on top of its improvised pilot 
house cover, moves a tank from the 3d Tank Battalion up the Dong Ha River on 6 July. 



(NSA), Da Nang, served as the focal point for Navy 
activities supporting the Marines in I Corps. The 
Navy estabhshed NSA in July 1965 to relieve the 
Marines of the administrative and logistic tasks 
associated with an advanced naval base. During 1966 
the command's responsibilities grew to the point 
that a flag officer, Rear Admiral Thomas R. 
Weschler, became the unit's commander. By the end 
of 1967, NSA developed into the largest U.S. Navy 
overseas shore command with more than 10,000 of- 
ficers and men.* It provided III MAF with an 
average of 39,661 measurement tons of supplies per 
month in 1967. 

Besides operating the Da Nang port facilities, 
sailors of NSA served throughout I Corps in several 
separate detachments to accomplish some rather 
diverse missions. Personnel of the command 
operated small craft on the dangerous waters of the 
Cua Viet to supply the fighting forces along the 
DMZ. Detachments at Hue/Tan My performed 
similar duties. At Chu Lai another detachment 
shared the burden of supplying all allied forces in 



*For a fuller treatment of Navy logistics in Vietnam, see Vice 
Admiral Edwin B. Hooper, USN (Ret), Mobility, Support and En- 
durance: A Story of Naval Operational Logistics in the Vietnam 
War, 1963-1968 (Washington: Naval History Division, Depart- 
ment of the Navy, 1972). 



lower I Corps, aided by the southernmost NSA 
detachment at Sa Huynh. NSA built the Sa Huynh 

A sailor on the Navy 's Swift Boat 80, operating in 
the South China Sea in September, prepares to fire 
an 81mm mortar at enemy coastal positions two 
miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. The dual 
mount also includes a ,30-caliber machine gun in- 
stalled above the mortar and recoil mechanism. 
3d MarDiv ComdC, September 1967 




LOGISTICS 



'233 




3d MarDiv ComdC, June 1967 
Navy hospital corpsmen remove a wounded man 
from a medevac helicopter at Dong Ha for the short 
ride to the 5d Medical Battalion's field hospital. 

facilities shortly after the arrival of Task Force 
Oregon in the summer of 1967. 

In addition to transhipping material from Da 
Nang to the smaller ports, NSA performed a variety 
of other tasks. It provided loading and unloading 
services, and transient and terminal storage at these 
ports; operated base supply depots for supply of 
material common to all U.S. forces in I Corps; sup- 
plied port and harbor security; coordinated activities 
with RVN agencies and the U.S. Agency for Interna- 
tional Development in support of military opera- 
tions; supervised industrial relations; provided all 
petroleum requirements; provided public works sup- 
port in secure areas; maintained airfields in coor- 
dination with III MAF; and operated in-country 
R&R facilities. 

Another vital NSA service involved providing 
hospital facilities for combat troops in I Corps. The 
NSA station hospital opened at Da Nang in January 
1966. It expanded from a 60-bed capacity to 460 by 
year's end. The staff included more than 500 doc- 
tors, nurses, corpsmen, and technicians. This 
modern hospital boasted the only frozen blood bank 
in Vietnam, and had competent departments such as 
X-ray; eye, ear, nose, and throat; neurosurgery; 
urology; orthopedic; research; and preventive 
medicine facilities. Served by a convenient 
helicopter pad, the NSA hospital, working with the 



facilities of the 1st and 3d Medical Battalions and the 
1st Hospital Company, provided III MAF with the 
most modern medical technology available. 

In addition to the fixed medical facilities, hospital 
ships cruised the waters off Vietnam to receive 
casualties evacuated directly from the battlefield by 
helicopter. The USS Sanctuary arrived on 10 April 
1967 to join her sister ship, the USS Repose, a 
veteran of almost a year's Vietnam service. In her 
first 50 days of action. Sanctuary admitted 1,200 pa- 
tients. Operating from Da Nang, the Sanctuary, 
with 560 hospital beds and 27 doctors embarked, 
could move to Chu Lai in less than two hours and to 
the seaward approaches to the DMZ in less than five 
hours. The presence of a fully-equipped hospital 
ship only minutes away provided solace for many 
Marines as they contemplated their chances of sur- 
vival. 

No account of naval support would be complete 
without mention of the Marines' long-term friends, 
the Seabees. By midsummer of 1967, nine Navy 
mobile construction battalions (NMCBs) were in 
Vietnam: two at Dong Ha, one at Phu Bai, five at 
Da Nang, and one at Chu Lai. These formed the 3d 
Naval Construction Brigade, commanded by Rear 

HMC Marvin L. Cunningham, Navy medical corps- 
man, removes mosquitoes from a trap with a por- 
table vacuum cleaner before sending them to the 
Navy Support Activity at Da Nang for examination. 
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189498 




234 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369856 
General purpose tents of the type commonly called "GP Medium" house a small field 
hospital run by the 1st Medical Battalion in support of Operation Desoto near Due Pho. 



Admiral Robert R. Wooding, CEC. His force includ- 
ed 7,000 officers and men. 

The Seabees in Vietnam demonstrated their 
amazing capability and traditional versatility. One 
of the best examples of their ability to respond with 
speed and determination took place during the fall 
of 1967 when they built an airfield and quarters for 
500 men at Quang Tri. The field served as a backup 
installation for the strip at Dong Ha, by then 
vulnerable to NVA rocket and artillery fire. Seabees 
and equipment converged on the site within a day of 
General Westmoreland's order to complete the field 
before the monsoon season. NMCB-10, the Pacific 
Fleet's Alert Construction Battalion on Okinawa, 
deployed immediately to take charge of the urgent 
project and relieve the composite force already at 
work. The specifications called for a 4,100-foot strip 
of sand cement covered with metal matting, plus 
15,000 square yards of parking aprons and taxiways. 

Heavy rains hit the region in late September, ad- 
ding to the problem of stabilizing shifting sand in 
the construction area. The Seabees also faced the 
delicate task of negotiating and supervising the 
removal of approximately 11,000 Vietnamese graves 
located in the middle of the proposed site. The latter 
problem occurred frequently in Vietnam and its 
solution required subtle and skillful diplomacy. In 



spite of these obstacles, the first KG- 130 landed at 
Quang Tri on 23 October, nine days ahead of the 
scheduled completion date and only 38 days after 
the project started. 

Concentration shows on the faces of Cdr Ronald L. 

Bouterie and his assistants during surgery on the hip 

of a wounded Marine on board the USS Tripoli. 

Depanment of Defense Photo (USMC) A704398 




LOGISTICS 



233 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A189992 
Seabees of Mobile Construction Battalion 301 battle the mud on 29 November as they 
set and seal runway mats into place during the rebuilding of the runway at Khe Sanh. 



Navy Seabees use special mobile equipment in September to crush rock for repairing the 
dam.age caused by heavy monsoon rains to the runway at the Khe Sanh combat base. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, September 1967 




236 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Photo courtesy of Maj Henry Wayne Gardner 

A Navy chaplain assigned to the 2d Battalion, 4th 
Marines conducts a non-denominational service in 
February using three C-ration boxes for an altar. 

Seabees also made a major contribution by their 
continual struggle to maintain "Liberty Road," the 
route connecting Da Nang with the An Hoa in- 
dustrial complex, 23 air miles to the southwest. 
Elements of the 3d, 7th, and 9th Marine Engineer 
Battalions worked with the Seabees to keep the road 
open as heavy two-way traffic strained its many 
culverts and bridges. The constant threat of enemy 
mines and sapper attacks added to the Seabees' and 
Marines' worries on "Liberty Road." Lieutenant Col- 
onel Frank W. Harris Ill's 7th Engineer Battalion 
replaced one bridge blown up by enemy demolitions 
on 4 February 1967, with a 96-foot, 60-ton-Hmit, 
timber bridge in the remarkable time of only 16 
days. 

The Seabees, however, claimed credit for the 
largest single bridge building feat on "Liberty 
Road." NMCB-4, commanded by Commander 
Richard M. Fluss, CEC, built the 2,040-foot-long 
"Liberty Bridge" across the Thu Bon River. The 
bridge rested on more than 800 80-foot-long piles, 
each one driven approximately 40 feet into the river 
bed. The battalion used more than five tons of 
10-inch nails and 5,000 24-inch bolts in its construc- 
tion. It completed the job in less than five 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A369963 
HM Andre A. Bougie, a 19-year old Navy medical 
corpsman in the 1st Marine Division, tries to keep a 
wounded Viet Cong alive in Operation New Castle. 



The visiting Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen 
Wallace M. Greene, Jr. , pins a Navy Unit Commen- 
dation streamer on the colors of the 3d Medical Bat- 
talion in a ceremony at Phu Bai on 7 January 1967. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, January 1967 




LOGISTICS 



237 




3d MarDiv ComdC, April 1967 
Two Marines from Company D, 11th Engineer Bat- 
talion perform a ritual common in the Vietnam 
War. PFC T. Outlaw, having located a suspected 
enemy mine with a mine detector during a road 
sweep on 12 April, watches as Pvt R. P. Dotson 
cautiously probes the ground with his bayonet tip. 




3d MarDiv ComdC, July 1967 
A bulldozer pushes trees aside as the 11th Engineer 
Battalion completes construction on Route 361 near 
the strategic combat base at Con Thien in July 1967. 



A pontoon ferry constructed by Company C, 11th Engineer Battalion carries several 
Marine vehicles across the Perfum^e River 15 miles west of the city of Hue on 16 May. 



3d MarDiv ComdC, May 1967 

'1 




238 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




3d MarDiv ComdC, April 1967 

Smoke pours from the 11th Engineer Battalion's new asphalt plant constructed at Dong 
Ha for improving the highway network necessary to the defense of the DMZ region. 



months, from 3 April to 2 September. Enemy sap- 
pers attacked the bridge during the early morning 
hours of 6 September and knocked out two spans. A 
scant 32 hours later, the Seabees had completed 
repairs and traffic moved once more on "Liberty 
Road." 

For the majority of Marines in Vietnam, the most 
frequently encountered evidence of Navy support 
were the naval personnel assigned to his unit. Each 
battalion, aircraft group, and higher headquarters 
had its own Navy chaplain. Each battalion and 
squadron, as well as higher headquarters, had its 
own complement of Navy medical personnel, head- 
ed by a physician. The enlisted Navy medical 
corpsmen provided immediate medical care at all 
levels, down to the individual rifle platoon. In addi- 
tion, each Marine division included a medical bat- 
talion and a dental company commanded by a 
Medical Corps or Dental Corps officer. 

Captain John T. Vincent, MC, USN, who com- 
manded the 3d Medical Battalion, described his 
unit's disposition in support of the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion: 

During 1967 there were two essentially complete 
hospitals, one at Phu Bai and the other at Dong Ha which 
we staffed and equipped for definitive surgical treatment. 
In addition, two clearing platoons (essentially the 
equivalent of an Army MASH [Mobile Army Surgical 
Hospital] unit) were in the field: one at Khe Sanh and the 
other at a fire support base between Phu Bai and Quang 



Tri. The deployment of a clearing platoon of "C" Q)m- 
pany, 3d Medical Battalion to Khe Sanh during the fight 
for Hills 86 1 and 88 1 was an extremely expeditious and ef- 
ficient operation and provided excellent combat support.' 

Dental Corps personnel could be found operating 
with Marines under similar conditions. For example, 
to provide primary dental care to Marines at Due 
Pho, the 1st Dental Company rigged a dental chair 
and other equipment in a 3/4-ton trailer. A 
helicopter flew the trailer from Quang Ngai to Due 
Pho. When dug in and sandbagged, it allowed the 
provision of excellent dental care throughout the 
Marine stay at the base, despite such occurrences as a 
near miss from a mortar during the enemy attack on 
24 March.'" 

Marine Corps Engineers 

No Marines in Vietnam faced more frustrations in 
the accomplishment of their mission than the 
engineers. Organized and equipped to accomplish 
engineer support for short duration amphibious 
operation, five Marine engineer battalions, the 1st, 
3d, 7th, 9th, and 11th, found themselves commit- 
ted to a protracted land war in an underdeveloped 
country. The wide spectrum of urgent tasks, hard 
equipment use, torrential rains, mud, heat, abrasive 
dust, replacement shortages, lack of spares, and a 
long supply pipeline were some of the more com- 



LOGISTICS 



239 



mon hindrances. Only forceful leadership, grueling 
work schedules, and considerable ingenuity kept the 
battalions abreast of mounting demands for 
engineering support. They met their military com- 
mitments while still managing to build dams, 
schools, dispensaries, bridges, and other facilities for 
the people of South Vietnam." 

One of the most challenging tasks facing the 
engineers in 1967 involved maintaining and 
upgrading more than 2,000 miles of I Corps roads. 
The opening of Route 9 connecting Dong Ha with 
Khe Sanh in March provided a prime example of 
Marine engineering accomplishment. Flooding and 
enemy damage closed the road to vehicular traffic 
west of Cam Lo in 1964. This 42 -mile road included 
49 bridges, 27 of which occupied the 15 -mile stretch 
between Ca Lu and Khe Sanh. Once open, the road 
required continuous maintenance to repair the con- 
stant ravages of flooding and enemy action. Addi- 
tionally, the engineers reinforced all bridges to sup- 
port 60-ton loads. The Route 9 project tied up 
almost a full engineer battalion for all of 1967. 

Another project which tested the resolve of the 
battalions was the construction of the DMZ barrier 
system in northern Quang Tri Province. The 11th 
Engineer Battalion, under the sucessive command of 
Lieutenant Colonels Ross L. Mulford and Willard N. 
Christopher, comprised the initial project force, but 
by the end of the summer, the mammoth effort in- 



volved 30 percent of all III MAF engineer forces.'^ 
U.S. Army motor transport and helicopter units 
were deployed from other Corps areas to help; 
Seabees provided additional support, especially in 
the construction of observation towers and bunkers; 
and ARVN engineers contributed their share. By the 
end of the year, the barrier construction effort and 
associated security tasks had absorbed 757,520 man 
days. Casualties among the engineers mounted as 
the enemy employed snipers, mines, mortars, and 
artillery to discourage them. 

The generator shortage caused headaches for 
Marines throughout 1967. The engineers owned and 
operated the major share of III MAF's power- 
generating equipment, but they were purely 
expeditionary-type generators. The Marine Corps 
possessed only a limited quantity of garrison equip- 
ment, including power generators. The rapid con- 
struction of many new installations in I Corps, all of 
which required electricity, quickly depleted existing 
generator stocks. The engineers had the task of ser- 
vicing and exchanging generators to keep up with 
seemingly insatiable power demands. Clubs, messes, 
air conditioners all demanded electricity, and the re 
quirements often exceeded the means. 

The generator situation in 1967 would have been 
even mere acute save for actions taken in 1966 by 
Colonel George C. Axtell, then the commander of 



Marines from the 5d Engineer Battalion use ropes and muscle power as they manhandle 
a dud 250-pound bomb in the mud of a farmer's paddy near Camp Evans in October, 

3d MarDiv ComdC, October 1967 



t 




240 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Photo courtesy of Col Frank W. Harris III 

The 7th Engineer Battalion, in an assignment com- 
mon to all engineer units in Vietnam, goes beyond 
its combat duties and aids the pacification program 
by building an irrigation dam to allow local Viet- 
namese farmers to grow a second rice crop each year. 

the Force Logistic Command. Colonel Richard D. 
Taber, St., recently recalled: 

When the shortage of generators began to be realized, 
Colonel Axtell personally called higher headquarters in the 
Pacific and United States to get all available expeditionary 
generators made available to III MAF. Then, following a 
discussion with Captain [Albert R.] Marschall (CEC) USN 



[of the Third Naval Construction Brigade], joint action 
was taken to obtain some larger (60 kilowatts and up) Navy 
generators for all complexes where power grids could be 
built and to release the smaller expeditionary generators to 
more remote locations. Care and maintenance of the ex- 
peditionary generators was primarily by their "owners" 
(i.e., the engineers) with backup from FLC. Care and 
maintenance of the larger Navy generators was first by 
selected engineer personnel from FLC and backed 
up /augmented by Navy Seabees." 

While the Marine engineers spent much time 
engaged in construction and maintenance, they also 
devoted many hours to road clearing sweeps. Each 
day, prior to the departure of the first truck convoy, 
engineers teams, with infantry support, ensured the 
roads were clear of mines, booby traps, and am- 
bushes, i"* When the engineers found enemy ex- 
plosives they either disarmed or blew them in place, 
depending upon their size and type. The slow, 
tedious, and dangerous sweeps were a necessary part 
of keeping supplies moving throughout I Corps. 

The Marine engineers in Vietnam demonstrated 
true versatility. Not only challenged by new and 
demanding tasks, but they also faced vastly different 
physical properties of soil and rock, as well as a clever 
and determined opponent. Every engineering pro- 
ject involved constant exposure to sabotage, mining, 
ambush, or some other nagging threat. The 
dramatic aspect of combat eclipses most supporting 
efforts, but this was not the case of the Marine 
engineers in Vietnam. If nothing else, the mere 
physical size of their accomplishments bears witness 
to their contribution. 



Father Nguyen Thanh Hoan, LtCol Ross L. Mulfordofthe 1 1th Engineer Battalion, and 
others stand in front of the school in Dong Ha partially supported by the battalion. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, March 1967 




tftf 



1^ ^ 




CHAPTER 15 

Other Marine Activities 

Marines with MACV—The Embassy Guard— The Advisors — I Corps Advisors— The Rung Sat Special Zone 
The Marine Advisory Unit— Action In Binh Dinh Province — Action in the South 



Marines with MACV 

The Marine Corps provided the MACV staff 72 of- 
ficers and 67 enlisted men at the beginning of 1967. 
The assigned Marines comprised sUghtly less than 
five percent of the total MACV staff personnel. 
Another 25 officers and 24 enlisted Marines served 
with the MACV field components. The senior 
Marine officer on the staff was the director of the 
combat operations center (COC), Brigadier General 
John R. Chaisson. General Chaisson remained in 
this vital position through 1967 and up until 
mid- 1968. Other Marine billets covered a broad 
spectrum of assignments which ranged from 



membership in the Studies and Observation Group 
to duty with the radio and television staff. 

Marine participation in MACV functions had a 
dual importance. Not only did they make Marine 
views readily available to the staff in Saigon, but 
MACV Marines clarified Saigon's decisions with their 
fellow Marines in I Corps. General Chaisson was 
himself a former member of the III MAF staff and 
the only Marine general out of 20 flag officers at 
MACV Headquarters. He had direct, personal con- 
tact with General Westmoreland and his senior staff 
members, as well as other senior American and 



Marine BGenJohn R. Chaisson, the director of the MACV combat operations center in 
Saigon, listens as Gen Creighton W. Abrams, the deputy MACV commander, confers 
with III MAF's LtGen Robert E. Cushman, Jr., and the 5 d Marine Division's MajGen 
Bruno A. Hochmuth during Gen Abrams' visit to the division at Phu Bai on 13 July. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 




241 



242 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



foreign representatives. From these associations, he 
gained considerable insight into the way the other 
services viewed Marines. None ever criticized 
Marines' fighting characteristics, except for the beUef 
that Marines did not know how to dig in when occu- 
pying a defensive position, such as Con Thien in 
1967. Not all the remarks were so charitable, as he 
recounted some years later at the Basic School: 

Sometimes they made disparaging remarks about our 
rather casual approach to logistics and communications 
and these rather ancillary supporting activities. They 
weren't quite sure that we were up to speed in these 
regards. ... I don't think they gave us credit for having too 
many smarts. They had a feeling that we liked to put our 
head down and go up the middle rather than get the least 
bit fancy. I can remember one day a senior officer of the 
Army came back [after] he'd visited a Marine battalion. He 
said to me, "John, you know, I met a real intelligent bat- 
talion commander up there. Real unusual guy." Now, I 
wasn't sure that [of the Marine's] two 

characteristics — intelligent and unusual — whether the one 
followed the other.' 

Some of the other 1967 Marine MACV Staff 
members were: Colonel James C. Stanfield, chief of 
the Plans and Requirements Division (J-4); Colonel 
William L. Traynor, the COC air operations officer; 
and Colonel Joseph C. Fegan, Jr., who served as 
General Chaisson's deputy director of the COC. Col- 
onel Kirby B. Vick was the deputy director of the 
Doctrine and Analysis Branch (J- 34) until March, 
when his relief. Colonel David D. Rickabaugh, ar- 
rived. 

Many controversial issues confronted the Marines 
assigned to MACV. These involved doctrinal and 
policy matters of direct interest to other commands, 
such as FMFPac, Seventh Fleet, and III MAF and its 
subordinate units. Marine participation in MACV 
functions helped in arriving at palatable solutions 
for many of the problems which developed during 
the year. 

The MACV viewpoint, of necessity, covered a 
broader range than that of the respective corps com- 
mands. MACV maintained a fine balance between 
the attitudes of the U.S. participants, as well as those 
of Vietnamese and allied staffs. Typical of the issues 
which confronted MACV in 1967 was the structuring 
of U.S. Army participation in I Corps. The provision 
of Task Force Oregon represented only the begin- 
ning of the northward move of Army troops. The 
fact that the displacement of each unit to I Corps 
meant that another corps area faced a force reduc- 
tion, or a postponement offeree buildup, remained 



a constant staff annoyance throughout the year. 
General Westmoreland's continuing concern about 
Communist use of the A Shau valley and the protec- 
tion of the remote cities of Kontum and Pleiku was 
another worrisome matter. The enemy rocket attacks 
against Da Nang posed still another dilemma. If 
enemy rockets could hit Da Nang, they also could 
hit Bien Hoa and, for that matter, Saigon. Another 
issue was the "barrier," or the "McNamara Line" 
along the DMZ. Even with the accelerated troop 
buildup in I Corps, the number of troops required to 
man, much less build, the unpopular barrier served 
as a continuing source of irritation. Added to this, 
the question arose of what to do with the left flank 
of the proposed barrier, an area comprising all of 
western Quang Tri Province. In III Corps a new 
threat developed. Even though Operations Cedar 
Falls and Junction City had badly mauled Com- 
munist formations in the "Iron Triangle" northwest 
of Saigon, at least three enemy divisions threatened 
Long Binh and Bien Hoa. To the south in IV Corps, 
U.S. riverine operations were expanding, but again 
the I Corps troop drain reduced the effectiveness of 
this tactical innovation. 

An entirely different and equally perplexing con- 
flict was the dispute between Marine and Air Force 
fire restrictions in the DMZ. The Air Force contend- 
ed that it should be responsible for all territory north 
of the Ben Hai River, but Marine staffs demanded to 
be allowed to fire to the maximum range of their at- 
tached 175mm guns in order to silence North Viet- 
namese artillery. An interim decision limiting 
Marine fires to the northern boundary of the DMZ 
and placing Air Force control north of the same 
boundary, satisfied neither service, and the issue re- 
mained in contention for the rest of the year. 

The year 1967 was filled with innumerable 
perplexing situations for the MACV staff. American 
troop strength increased from 385,000 to 486,000, 
but Communist activity also intensified. In August, 
the MACV Headquarters moved from downtown 
Saigon to a new complex at Tan Son Nhut Airbase 
on the outskirts of the city. The improved facilities 
did not diminish the number of problems, but they 
did improve the staffs' working conditions. The 
coming year proved that the move occurred none too 
soon. 

The Embassy Guard 

The year 1967 brought on expansion of the 
Marine Security Guard Detachment (MSGD) at the 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



243 




miles 
kilometers 



244 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



American Embassy in Saigon. The detachment of 
Marines, one officer and 67 enhsted men at the 
beginning of the year, came under the ad- 
ministrative control of Company C, Marine Security 
Guard Battalion, headquartered at the U.S. Em- 
bassy in Manila. The parent battalion, established in 
February 1967, was the Marine Security Guard Bat- 
talion (State Department) located at Headquarters, 
Marine Corps. The Saigon detachment's chain of 
command consisted of one of the longest small unit 
command links in the world, more than 650 miles 
from Saigon to Manila and over 9,000 miles to bat- 
talion headquarters in Washington. At the beginn- 
ing of the year. First Lieutenant Philip E. Tucker 
commanded the Saigon detachment; his deputy, 
and the only staff noncommissioned officer, was 
Staff Sergeant Gary G. Stoces. 

The Marines assigned to the Embassy protected 
American lives and property within the Embassy and 
its associated U.S. Agency for International 
Development (US AID) and U.S. Information Ser- 
vice (USIS) buildings. The guard consisted of an ad- 
ministrative section and a watch section. The watch 
section broke down into three separate units: a 
Guard Section, charged with protection of the Em- 
bassy, USAID, and USIS compounds; an Am- 
bassador's Residency Guard; and the Ambassador's 
Personal Security Unit, the bodyguard of the 
Honorable Henry Cabot Lodge and his wife. The 
Embassy Security Officer, Mr. Robert A. England, 
exercised operational control of the detachment 
through First Lieutenant Tucker. The Embassy 
Marines had no connection with Marines elsewhere 
in Vietnam. 

Weapons and radio equipment for the Marines 
came from the U.S. Department of State. The 
detachment's highly sophisticated radio net con- 
sisted of extremely reliable fixed and portable units 
which linked guard posts, vehicles, the detachment 
office, and the security offices. The standard weapon 
for the embassy guard was the Smith and Wesson 
.38-caliber, 4-inch barrel revolver. However, the 
Residency Guard carried the 2-inch barrel Smith and 
Wesson .38, while the Personal Security Unit used 
the Colt "Python," a .357-caliber, magnum revolver. 
Both the Residency and the Personal Security Units 
had 9mm Beretta sub-machine guns, which they car- 
ried in unobtrusive attache cases. A 1966 test of 
some of the world's available sub-machine guns 
resulted in the selection of the Beretta because of its 



accuracy, reliability, and light weight.* Backing up 
the arsenal of hand guns, each internal post possess- 
ed 12-gauge Remington Shotguns, loaded with 00 
buckshot shells. 

One major problem encountered by the officer in 
charge during 1967 was that his command expanded 
so rapidly that he and his one staff NCO were hard 
put to exercise adequate control. As a result, 
sergeants supervised watch sections of as many as 30 
Marines, located at different posts in a potentially 
insecure city. This situation ceased only after Cap- 
tain Robert J. O'Brien became OIC of the detach- 
ment in April and Gunnery Sergeant Alexander 
Morrison arrived in February. 

The security guard faced an additional difficulty 
during the construction of a new embassy facility. 
During the construction period, the Marines guard- 
ed the site on a 24-hour basis and, because of securi- 
ty considerations, monitored the workers on the job. 
The Marine guard requirements constantly changed 
at the new building site and the contractors did not 
finish the new complex until the fall. 

The year 1967 passed without any significant test 
of the Saigon MSG's mission capability. The events 
of February 1968 justified the long and tedious 
hours devoted to drills, alerts, passive defense 
measures, and tests of the security system. 

The Advisors 

Major operations such as Cedar Falls and Junction 
City in III Corps, the Prairie series, the Hickory 
sweeps, and the protracted defenses of Con Thien 
and Khe Sanh in I Corps served as focal points for 
the year 1967. Because of the tactful and often 
delicate nature of their missions, American advisors 
often found their activities in Vietnam overshadow- 
ed by these more dramatic events. The advisors' role 
in Vietnam, however, included every aspect of the 
conflict. 

Following the signature of the Geneva Accords on 
20 July 1954, the South Vietnamese Government re- 
quested U.S. military aid. The United States granted 
the request and established the Military Assistance 
Advisory Group (MAAG), Vietnam. In February 
1955, MAAG Vietnam's mission expanded to in- 
clude the organization and training of the Viet- 



*The weapons tested included the Thompson SMG (.45 
caliber), the Swedish K, the Israeli Uzi, and the Beretta. LtCol 
Philip E. Tucker, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) (Vietnam 
Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



245 



namese forces. Continued growth of the MAAG led 
to the formation of the U.S. Military Assistance 
Command, Vietnam (USMACV) in February 1962 
to direct the expanding effort. By the end of 1962, 
MACV personnel strength reached 11,000. As the 
level of combat increased, MACV grew accordingly, 
and during 1967 General Westmoreland, recogniz- 
ing the value of the advisory program, requested the 
addition of 3,100 advisory personnel. By 31 
December 1967, 7,038 U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, 
and Marine advisors served in the field with their 
Vietnamese counterparts; 76 were Marines. 

Marine advisors fell into two categories. The 
largest contingent, 40 officers and enlisted men, 
served as members of the 84 5 -man USMACV I Corps 
Field Advisory Element. The Naval Advisory Group 
(NAG) carried the other Marine advisors on its rolls. 
NAG Marines operated with two separate advisory 
components: The Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ) and 
the Marine Advisory Unit (MAU). The Rung Sat 
Special Zone was a small, joint Navy-Marine advisory 
unit, while the Marine Advisory Unit was directed to 
the growing Vietnamese Marine Corps. 

I Corps Advisors 

Marine advisors assigned to I Corps came under 
the control of the Army Advisory I Corps Head- 
quarters, located at Da Nang, and commanded by 
Colonel Archelaus L. Hamblen, USA. Colonel 
Hamblen reported to the senior advisor, I Corps, 
Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt, who, in addi- 
tion to commanding III MAF, wore the advisory 
"hat" in the Corps area. 

The Marine advisors in I Corps, 20 officers and 20 
enlisted men, spread throughout the entire I CTZ, 
but most of them concentrated in the 1st ARVN 
Division while the rest served with the 2d ARVN 
Division and the 51st ARVN Regiment. The 1 Corps 
advisory teams contained U.S. Marine and Army and 
Australian personnel. ^ 

One of the major accomplishments of the Army- 
Marine advisory teams with the 1st ARVN Division 
involved the improvement of the division's 
firepower. During September 1967, the 1st ARVN 
Division took over a sector of the DMZ defenses, and 
to strengthen its defensive capabilities, the division 
received 106mm recoilless rifles and M-60 machine 
guns. Its mortar allocations increased, and late in the 
year the entire division was reequipped with M-16 
rifles. 




Photo courtesy of LtCol James R. Davis 
Marine Capt James R. Davis (second from right), the 
senior advisor to a battalion of the 1st ARVN Infan- 
try Division, and his assistants, pose with the bat- 
talion's commander (center). Comprising the team 
are a Marine lieutenant, an Australian warrant of- 
ficer, Capt Davis, and an Army sergeant first class. 

Five major ARVN actions during 1967 in I Corps 
demonstrated increased South Vietnamese unit com- 
bat effectiveness, the goal of the advisory effort. In 
February, 2d ARVN Division battalions engaged 
elements of the 1st VC and NVA Regiments in 
Quang Ngai Province, killing 813 enemy. To the 
north, 1st ARVN Division regulars accounted for 
392 NVA killed during May as they worked with the 
3d Marine Division during Operation Lam Son 
54/ Hickory. 

Lam Son 54 provided an excellent example of the 
rigors experienced by advisors assigned to I Corps. 
On the night of 20 May 1967, Marine First Lieu- 
tenant William M. Grammar, senior advisor to the 
3d Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st ARVN Division, was 
with the battalion command group. Suddenly a 
large North Vietnamese force lunged out of the 
darkness, completely overrunning the group. Dur- 
ing the confused action which followed, enemy fire 
hit one of Grammar's assistants. Grammar tried to 
carry him to safety, but the wounded American 
refused, saying that he would stay behind and pro- 



246 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




3d MarDiv ComdC, April 1967 
Marine Capt Roger E. Knapper, an advisor to the 1st 
ARVN Infantry Division, inspects a well-constructed 
bunker at one of the division's bases in April 1967. 

vide covering fire. Lieutenant Grammar, with the 
rest of his team, fought his way through the encircl- 
ing enemy to the relative safety of a nearby village. 
There, an enemy search party discovered them. 
Grammar, trying to draw the Communists away 
from his group of survivors, broke into the open and 
ran into an open field. His efforts failed and the 
enemy force captured him. 

Meanwhile, the 4th Battalion of the 1st ARVN 
Regiment received orders to go to the assistance of 
the survivors of the 3d Battalion. By 0600 the 4th 
made contact with the same enemy unit that had 
overrun the 3d Battalion. The battle raged all morn- 
ing; close air support and artillery helped the 4th 
Battalion to drive the North Vietnamese from their 
original positions. Senior battalion advisor. Marine 
Captain James R. Davis, directed the supporting 
arms effort. At 1100, the 4th Battalion located the 
main enemy force near a church. The South Viet- 
namese launched a determined assault against the 
enemy position at 1300 and, despite heavy NVA 
automatic weapons fire and B-40 rockets, the bat- 
talion carried the Communist position. The NVA 



unit broke off the engagement. The 4th Battalion 
consolidated the church position, where they found 
the body of First Lieutenant Grammar. His captors 
had killed him before they fled.* 

Later in the year, during July, the 1st ARVN Divi- 
sion conducted a sweep operation. Lam Son 87, 
north of Hue. During the operation, the division 
shattered the 802d VC Battalion. The final enemy 
body count reached 252. The next month, in Quang 
Nam Province, units from the independent 51st 
ARVN Regiment tracked down a battalion of the 
21st NVA Regiment, and killed 197. Later in the 
fall, during Lam Son 138 east of Quang Tri City, a 
1st ARVN Division battalion smashed another NVA 
battalion. At the end of the day-long battle, a total 
of 107 North Vietnamese bodies covered the field. 
Marine advisors participated in all of these actions. 
In I Corps during 1967, South Vietnamese large-unit 
actions killed more than 8,000 enemy troops, as 
compared to 5,271 in 1966. The advisors were ac- 
complishing their mission. 

The Rung Sat Special Zone 

Since the beginning of Vietnamese history, the 
Rung Sat, literally "forest of assassins," represented a 
source of vexation to the rulers of Cochin China. The 
Rung Sat is a dense maangrove swamp covering the 
400 square miles separating Saigon from the sea. 
Saigon's main waterway to the South China Sea, the 
Long Tau River, meanders through the tangle of the 
Rung Sat. The area served as the hideout of countless 
pirates and other fugitives in the past and remained 
ideally suited for the Viet Minh and later the Viet 
Cong. The only way to move in the Rung Sat is by 
small, shallow draft boat, and its tidal waterways 
challenged navigation. Only long term residents of 
the Rung Sat knew its secrets, and the Viet Cong 
were long term residents. The primary VC threat 
from the Rung Sat was the possibility of sinking 
large shipping in the Long Tau, thereby blocking the 
Saigon port. The VC attempted this many times and 
forced the South Vietnamese into an extended "cat 
and mouse" game of finding and expelling the Com- 
munists from their sanctuary. 

As one solution to the threat posed by the Viet 
Cong presence in the Rung Sat, the South Viet- 
namese Government designated the region as a 



*Lieutenant Grammar received a posthumous Silver Star Medal 
for this action. LtCol James R. Davis, Comments on draft ms, 
l4May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



247 



Special tactical operational area, thus the designation 
Rung Sat Special Zone. As in all other arenas of con- 
flict in Vietnam, American advisors served there. By 
1967 the RSSZ Advisory Team consisted of two 
Marine officers, one Navy officer, three enlisted 
Marines, and two sailors. The team had its head- 
quarters at Nha Be, seveo miles south of Saigon, on 
the west bank of the Long Tau River. The base pro- 
vided an ideal operational site since it lay at the junc- 
tion of the Long Tau and the Soi Rap River, the lat- 
ter forming the southern boundary of the RSSZ. 
Boats from Nha Be could reach the entire perimeter 
of the swamp. 

The RSSZ advisors faced multiple duties. As the 
resident experts, they coordinated all efforts to force 
the Communists out of the swamp. Initially, they 
worked with a meager Vietnamese force consisting 
only of local RF and PF units. As the year progressed 
the unit's advisory responsibilities increased as the 
South Vietnamese directed larger formations and 
more sophisticated equipment against the enemy in 
the zone. During the year, the United States im- 
proved the Nha Be base to support U.S. Navy river 
patrol boats, minesweepers, landing craft, and the 
invaluable Navy Sea Wolf helicopter fire teams. On 
28 February 1967, the U.S. Navy established the 
Riverine Assault Force (TF 117), which represented 
the Navy element of a new tactical organization, the 
Mekong Delta Mobile Assault Force. This force 
made its combat debut in a joint operation with the 
9th U.S. Division in the Rung Sat during March. 
Following this penetration, operations in the Rung 
Sat increased in tempo and scale through the sum- 
mer and fall. 

The Communists responded to the increased 
allied efforts. They shelled Nha Be twice during 
August, and during the first attack on 3 August, the 
Communists wounded 24 men. Enemy attacks 
against shipping continued. On 16 March the Com- 
munists hit the SS Conqueror with six 75mm 
recoilless rifle rounds as it sailed up the Long Tau. 
On 18 November they hit the SS Buchanan 19 
times. On 22 December, a mine exploded under the 
SS Seatrain Texas while it lay at anchor near Nha Be. 

The Buchanan shelling touched off a reaction 
which is an excellent illustration of advisory activity 
in the Rung Sat. At the time of the incident. Marine 
Captain Clifford R. Dunning served as the RSSZ ad- 
visor to a specially formed Vietnamese comman- 
do/intelligence unit. The unit quickly planned an 
operation that sent a reaction force in three 



helicopters after the VC gunners. The helicopters 
could not land, which forced Dunning and his unit 
to jump into the swamp from the hovering 
helicopters from a height of about 12 feet. About 
200 meters from the insert point, the reaction force 
caught up with the Viet Cong. After a sharp 
firefight, the enemy broke and ran, leaving behind 
two 75mm recoilless rifles. An air strike intercepted 
the fleeing VC. One enemy charged out of the 
swamp toward Captain Dunning. Dunning shot 
him. Shortly thereafter, the air strike ended and the 
surviving VC regrouped and counterattacked the 
Vietnamese commando party. Dunning's unit stop- 
ped the VC charge. Another heavy firefight 
developed, and once more the South Vietnamese at- 
tacked. While the South Vietnamese drove the VC 
back, a smoke grenade dropped from a friendly 
helicopter injured Dunning. Once more the Viet 
Cong withdrew and Dunning and his men establish- 
ed a night position. They counted 16 VC bodies on 
the battlefield. In addition, the capture of the two 
recoilless rifles deprived the VC of their best an- 
tishipping weapons.* 

Once inside the dank, smelly confines of the 
swamp, the rest of Viet Nam seemed as remote as 
another world. The Rung Sat Advisors fought a very 
personal, almost private, war in the slime and heat 
of the Forest of Assassins. 

The Marine Advisory Unit 

The Marine Advisory Unit adapted its size accor- 
ding to the needs of the expanding Vietnamese 
Marine Corps (VNMC). Starting as a single battalion 
in 1955, by the spring of 1967 the Vietnamese 
Marine Corps had grown to a strength of six infantry 
battalions, an artillery battalion, and supporting 
elements. The advisory unit expanded from one of- 
ficer in 1955 to 25 Marine officers, one Navy officer, 
and five enlisted Marines by January 1967. 

At the beginning of the year, Colonel Nels E. 
Anderson served as the senior Marine advisor. He 
assigned teams of two officers, usually a major and a 
captain, to each battalion, while other members of 
the group served as technical advisors or performed 
the diverse administrative functions of the MAG. 
When the Vietnamese Marines deployed in brigade 
or task force formations, normally two infantry bat- 



*For his actions on 18 November 1967, Captain Dunning 
received the Silver Star Medal. 



248 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



talions and an artillery battery, an additional pair of 
advisors went with the force headquarters. 

Both the Vietnamese Marine Brigade and the Air- 
borne Brigade operated as the national strategic 
reserve. This designation was, however, a misnomer; 
the so-called strategic reserve seldom sat uncommit- 
ted. The units engaged in combat operations more 
than 80 percent of the year. The role of the Marines 
resembled that of a theater reserve, but the emphasis 
was on rotational commitment, rather than reten- 
tion as a static reserve element. 

All but one of the VNMC battalions had their 
home base on the outskirts of Saigon. The one ex- 
ception was the 4th, which operated from Vung 
Tau, located on the sea 60 kilometers southeast of 
Saigon. For this reason, when a Marine battalion 
began a scheduled rehabilitation, it usually returned 
to Saigon and assumed duties in either the Capital 
Military District, the geographic area including and 
surrounding Saigon, or the Rung Sat Special Zone, 
(RSSZ), which also lay near the battalions' base 
camps. 

The strategic role and high commitment rate 
caused the officers and men of the Marine Advisory 
Group to see as much, if not more, of Vietnam dur- 
ing their respective 12-month tours than any other 
group of Americans. The familiar Vietnamese verb, 
"Di!" (Go!), assumed a special meaning to the ad- 
visors. Not only did it raise the immediate question 
of where, but experience soon taught the unwary 
that "Di!" could mean "We're going!" for weeks — or 
possibly months. For example, during 1967, the 1st 
Battalion remained in the field in Binh Dinh Pro- 
vince for 117 days, from 14 July until 8 November. 

Vietnamese Marine operations during 1967 fell in- 
to three general categories: security operations in 
both the Capital Military District and the Rung Sat 
Special Zone, a year-long campaign against the well- 
entrenched Viet Cong in Binh Dinh Province in II 
CTZ, and search and destroy sweeps in III and IV 
Corps. 

One exception occurred with Operation Song 
Than /Deckhouse V, a joint U.S. Marine-Vietnamese 
Marine effort. The first large-scale USMC/VNMC 
amphibious operation. Song Than /Deckhouse V 
went after VC elements reported active in the coastal 
regions of Kien Hoa Province. Intelligence officers 
reported the Communist units there included 
elements of the 516th, 518th, and 261st VC Bat- 
talions. 



The landing force of Vietnamese Marines came 
from VNMC Brigade Force Bravo, consisting of the 
3d, 4th, and part of the 6th Battalion, reinforced by 
Battery C of the VNMC Artillery Battalion. The 
American force came from the Special Landing Force 
(SLF), then consisting of BLT 1/9 and HMM-362. 

Colonel Anderson recalled the problems he en- 
countered in coordinating the command relation- 
ships of ±is operation: 

When I learned that Deckhouse V was to be conducted 
in Kien Hoa Province, I seized upon the opportunity to get 
the Vietnamese Marines involved at last in an amphibious 
operation, which, after all, was supposed to be their 
primary mission. I knew this would involve certain risks 
because none of the Vietnamese Marines had had any 
training whatsoever in this, the most complex of all 
military operations. One plus factor, however, was that the 
field-rank officers that were to participate were graduates 
of Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico, and several 
junior officers and senior N.C.O.s had attended school at 
Landing Force Training Gammand, Pacific. 

The first thing I did was to discuss the operation with 
the Commandant, Lieutenant General Le Nguyen Khang, 
at his headquarters at Bien Hoa. (Bien Hoa was the head- 
quarters of the III Corps of which General Khang was com- 
mander at this time.) Khang, also a graduate of AWS was 
very enthusiastic when told about the operation. Among 
other things discussed were the command relations in am- 
phibious operations as established by existing doctrine. He 
said he understood perfectly and that he would place the 
Vietnamese Marine units to be in Deckhouse V under the 
command of the Amphibious Task Force Commander. 
This of course would be a departure from command rela- 
tionships then existing between U.S. and South Viet- 
namese Forces. 

After embarkation, I learned that the Vietnamese Joint 
General Staff had disapproved of the command relation- 
ships agreed to by General Khang and that the old 
"cooperation and coordination" system would be in effect. 
I never could see the logic for such arrangement, and in my 
opinion the lack of unity of command between the U.S. 
and Vietnamese forces was a glaring weakness in the entire 
war.'' 

Song Than /Deckhouse V got off to a bad start. A 
compromise of the operation occurred even before 
the Vietnamese Marines embarked. Hurried plan- 
ning, unclear command structures, faulty radio nets, 
and poor liaison compounded operational problems. 
Even the elements turned against the Marines. 
Rough seas postponed the landing for one day, and 
after returning to Vung Tau for ship-to-ship 
transfers, the Marines devised a new landing plan. 
The new plan called for helilifting most of the 
assault force. By this time, as many as 40 percent of 
the Vietnamese Marines had succumbed to 
seasickness. The landing on 7 January did not 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



249 



brighten their spirits. Major Donald E. Wood, the 
operations and training advisor, reported: 

Following the assault across Red Beach . . . Brigade 
Force Bravo was informed by local inhabitants in the area 
that VC elements had been alerted regarding the schedul- 
ed date and location of the operation three weeks prior to 1 
January. The result was that very light contact was gained 
with VC by assault units.' 

Song Than /Deckhouse V ended on 15-16 January 
as Brigade Force Bravo went through the tedious 
process of reloading from the shallow beaches of 
Kien Hoa and unloading again at Vung Tau. The 
week in the recently harvested rice fields and vexing 
mangrove swamps of the Mekong Delta resulted in 
five dead VC and the capture of 25 suspects, 10 of 
whom proved to be Viet Cong. These were lackluster 
results for an operation conducted by 1,750 Viet- 
namese Marines. One 4th Battalion Marine drowned 
and seven other troops suffered accidental wounds. 
The "lessons learned" were manifold; however Song 
Than /Deckhouse V represented the last operation of 
its type. MACV restricted the SLF to 1 CTZ and the 
Vietnamese Marines reverted to their previous land- 
locked role.* 

During the year four Vietnamese Marine bat- 
talions participated in forays into the foreboding 
swamps of the Rung Sat: 



*See Chapter 11 for the SLF account of Deckhouse V. 



1st Battalion 2-8 Feburary 

4th Battalion 11 March-12 April 

1st Battalion 11 April- 1 2 May 

6th Battalion 12 May-21July 

3d Battalion 12 August- 15 September 

The 6th Battalion senior advisor's report of the 12 
May-21 July occupation provides an insight into the 
conditions in the Rung Sat. Major Robert L. Fischer 
reported: 

The tidal range in the TAOR is 12 feet .... At low tide 
many small streams are dry and larger rivers and streams 
present high, steep banks. The rapid currents during fill- 
ing and receding tides make small streams dangerous for 
troop crossing and difficult for maneuverability of small 
boats. At high tide it is virtually impossible to move rapid- 
ly by foot .... Ambushers placed along streams often 
found themselves waist deep in water for at least half of 
the ambush period.' 

Another frustration of Rung Sat duty stemmed 
from the Viet Cong's ability to recognize Marine in- 
tentions, which made decisive engagements virtually 
impossible. Major Fischer's report revealed some of 
the simple but effective VC measures: 

The Viet Cong utilize a simple system of early warning 
and signal towers. Near each active camp located in the 
TAOR was a tree platform or tower. On ten occasions VC 
were observed either in the tower or dropping from it and 
running into the nearest dense area. These towers are 
located across the Rung Sat and undoubtedly serve to 
signal elements crossing the Rung Sat between adjacent 



A unit of Vietnamese wades ashore from a landing craft in a flooded part of the Mekong 
Delta during the joint Operation Deckhouse V in the Delta region in January. 

Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A 190966 




*ir ^ 5(1 




250 



provinces, as well as providing early warning and 
massing capability.' 



unit 



massing capability. 



Simply stated. Rung Sat duty remained hot, wet, 
filthy, frustrating, and dangerous. Myriad bugs, 
gnats, mosquitoes, and ants added to the grim at- 
mosphere of the swamp. In spite of these obstacles, 
the five VNMC Rung Sat battalion-size operations in 
1967 cost the Viet Cong 30 killed at a price of four 
Marines killed and 21 wounded. 

Action In Binh Dinh Province 

An area of major VNMC action in 1967 was Binh 
Dinh Province in northern II CTZ. After operating 
there since mid- 1964, all Vietnamese Marines 
became familiar with the beautiful Bong Son plain 
and the seemingly endless ridge lines that extend 
westward to Laos. In 1965, the first U.S. ground 
forces moved into II Corps. The 1st U. S. Cavalry 
Division (Airmobile) went to An Khe with the mis- 
sion of keeping Route 19 open between Pleiku and 
Qui Nhon. Joint U.S. /RVN operations started short- 
ly after the arrival of the "1st Cav." 

For the Vietnamese Marines, operations in Binh 
Dinh proved different from those in III and IV CTZs 
to the south. The dense forest of the uncultivated 
areas, the concentration of the population in a nar- 
row coastal strip, cooler weather, long periods of 
morning fog, and much more solid land forms, all 
contributed to tactical variations. Generally, the Viet 
Cong in Binh Dinh represented a different breed. 
Dominated by the Viet Minh in the Fifties, the pro- 
vince remained notorious for its solid Communist 
base. The Binh Dinh Cong were "hard core" in every 
sense of the term. 

The terrain in Binh Dinh supports cultivation only 
in the coastal regions, hence the population centers 
there. The rest of the province, all forested, served as 
an enormous VC sanctuary. Only woodcutters and 
scattered Montagnards roamed the hinterlands; the 
Communists moved at will under the vast forest 
canopy. Operating from the spacious inland sanc- 
tuary, the VC had the enviable position of operating 
on interior lines against the densely populated 
coastal region. 

The GVN forces, on the other hand, sought to 
protect vulnerable Routes 1 and 19, as well as the 
railroad and the Bong Son Airfield, all in lowland 
regions, except for the western end of Route 19. 
Similarly, most of the population requiring protec- 
tion concentrated in these same lowlands. The con- 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 

centrated population made government control 
somewhat easier, but the local citizens remained 
apathetic; the Communists long dominance made 
their influence strong. 

Operationally, the terrain proved suitable for a 
different type of guerrilla warfare, unlike that ex- 
perienced in the swamps and delta region in 
southern South Vietnam. In Binh Dinh Province the 
ground is hard, even during the rainy season. Cover 
and concealment is excellent. Seasonal, dense morn- 
ing fog neutralizes the effect of air superiority. These 
factors provided the Communists with excellent 
mobility and they moved without fear of detection. 
Consequently, their vast natural hiding place, the 
inland forests, allowed the Viet Cong to operate 
more audaciously than elsewhere in the country. 

One commodity, food, remained in short supply 
in Binh Dinh Province. The main cultivated areas lay 
along Route 1. In 1967, the government still con- 
trolled the food producing areas and the Com- 
munists wanted them. That brought the Vietnamese 
Marines and 1st U.S. Cavalry Division to northern II 
Corps. 

The first major VNMC action in II CTZ during 
1967 was Operation Pershing/ Song Than 9, a joint 
operation with the 1st Cavalry Division near Bong 
Son. Song Than 9 was a satisfactory operation. Dur- 
ing the period 14-22 February Brigade Force Bravo, 
the 2d and 3d Battalions, killed 54 Viet Cong. In 
return, the enemy killed three Marines and wounded 
27. Remaining in the Bong Son area, the brigade 
force spent the rest of February, all of March, and 
the first part of April conducting sweep operations. 
They coordinated these operations with the 1st 
Cavalry Division's operations in adjacent areas, but 
the Marine sweeps remained separate operations. 

On 18-19 April, Brigade Force Alpha flew to 
English Airfield at Bong Son where it relieved 
Brigade Force Bravo. On the 22nd, Force Alpha 
began search and destroy /pacification of a TAOR in- 
cluding Tam Quan on the north, Bong Son to the 
south, the portion of Route 1 connecting the two 
towns, with the South China Sea serving as the 
eastern boundary. Elsewhere in II CTZ, Brigade 
Force Bravo, under the direction of the 2 2d ARVN 
Division, conducted two major operations from 18 
March through 18 April. Again, these actions paral- 
leled but remained separate from 1st Cavalry Divi- 
sion operations. Brigade Force Alpha stayed in the 
Bong Son region until July. At the conclusion of 
Operation Bac Thien 817 on 12 July, Brigade Force 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



251 



Alpha resumed patrolling of its TAOR until relieved 
by Brigade Force Bravo on the 26th. The latter unit 
started Operation Song Than 14 the next day. 
Brigade Force Alpha left II Corps in late July; Force 
Bravo remained until 6 November. The two units 
again switched places and Force Alpha remained 
there until well into 1968. 

Vietnamese Marine operations in II CTZ during 
1967 showed impressive results. Communist losses 
totaled 202 killed and 282 captured. Marine losses 
for the year's II CTZ campaign numbered 49 killed 
and 215 wounded. 

Action in the South 

Other than periodic assignments to the Rung Sat, 
security operations around Saigon in the Capital 
Military District, and rotations to II CTZ, the rest of 
the Vietnamese Marines' 1967 operations took place 
in the III and IV Corps Tactical Zones; six occurred 
in the former and five in the latter. 

From 22 February through 11 March, Brigade 
Force Alpha, consisting of the reinforced 1st and 5th 
Battalions took part in Operation Junction City, a 
search and destroy operation with the 25th U.S. In- 
fantry Division. Force Alpha became the only Viet- 
namese unit to participate in the largest allied opera- 
tion since the beginning of the war. Marine contact 
was very light, but the net results of the joint opera- 
tion included the seizure of more than 364 tons of 
rice and significant damage to enemy installations in 
the Communists' War Zone C, This zone lay in a 
triangular territory formed by Route 13, the Cambo- 
dian border, and a line connecting Ben Cat with Tay 
Ninh. Vietnamese Marine-U. S. relations improved 
further when the brigade force commander, Colonel 
Bui The Lan, requested that his force be granted a 
more aggressive role in the 25th Division's scheme of 
operations. The Americans granted the request and 
Brigade Force Alpha avoided acting as a blocking 
force . 

In May, Brigade Force Bravo, then consisting of 
the reinforced 1st and 5th Battalions moved from 
Saigon to Vi Tanh, 45 kilometers southwest of Can 
Tho in IV CTZ. There, under 21st ARVN Division 
control, the Marine force participated in the 
uneventful Operation Dan Chi 287 /C. On 28 May, 
Force Bravo left its attached artillery behind and 
undertook a riverine assault. This operation. Long 
Phi 999/N, proved unproductive and the Marine 
elements became the 9th ARVN Division reserve at 
Vinh Long. 

On 7 June, Brigade Force Bravo moved to Tan 



Uyen village, 13 kilometers north of Bien Hoa in III 
CTZ where it came under the direct control of III 
Corps Headquarters. On 20 June the 1st Marine Bat- 
talion left to participate with the 1st U.S. Infantry 
Division in Operation Billings, north of Tan Uyen. 
The net result of these actions for the Marines in- 
cluded the loss of nine killed, 34 wounded. Among 
the wounded was the 1st Battalion's assistant ad- 
visor. Captain Manfred E. Schwarz. Communist 
losses were 14 killed and one captured. Vietnamese 
Marine operations in III and IV Corps got off to a 
slow start in 1967. 

When Operation BiUings ended on 9 July, 
Brigade Force Bravo moved from Tan Uyen to 
neighboring Phuoc Tuy Province. There, with the 
9th U.S. Infantry Division, the 1st Australian Task 
Force, and the 43d ARVN Regiment, Force Bravo, 
now consisting of the 2d and 3d Marine Battalions, 
joined Operation Paddington. The mission involved 
locating and destroying the 214th VC Regiment. 
The Marines opened their phase of the operation at 
0900 on 10 July with a helicopter landing in their 
respective zones of action. Contact continued light 
throughout the 10th and 11th, but at 0900 on 12 Ju- 
ly, elements of the 3d Battalion made contact with 
what appeared to be an enemy battalion. Heavy 
fighting continued until 1600 when the VC broke 
off the engagement. For the next three days the 
Marines conducted search operations but made no 
contact. Finally, on the 15th, Brigade Force Bravo 
regrouped at Xuan Loc and motored back to its base 
camp at Thu Due outside Saigon. Brigade Force 
Bravo reported 43 Communists dead as the result of 
Paddington; 11 Marines died and 31 suffered 
wounds during the operation. 

One of the most serious problems faced by ad- 
visors in the field revolved around establishing the 
precise status of the advisor vis-a-vis his counterpart. 
Often the Americans gave advice which their Viet- 
namese counterparts ignored. Third parties often 
compounded this situation. Major Charles E. Parker, 
senior advisor with Brigade Force Bravo during 
Operation Paddington, summed up the problem 
when he stated: 

On two occasions coordination with U.S. units consisted 
of the [American] unit commanding officer simply stating 
his intentions to the nearest USMC advisor, then leaving 
without waiting for a discussion with the Task Force Com- 
mander. This abruptness, however, was probably more a 
result of late receipt of orders rather than any obstinacy on 
the part of the U.S. command. As it turned out. 



232 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



liaison /coordination problems were solved before 
dangerous situations developed. 

Major Parker continued: 

The U.S. Army commanders and their staffs are not 
aware of the organization and functions of U.S. Marine ad- 
visors. They work on the assumption that we operate with 
teams similar to U.S. Army advisory teams (which were 
larger). They also seem to forget that USMC advisors are 
just what the term implies, advisors, not commanders.'* 

During the last week in July, the 3d Battalion par- 
ticipated in Operation Concordia VII with the 2d 
Brigade, 9th U.S. Infantry Division. The operation 
produced no contacts or casualties, but the riverine 
landing in Long An Province proved that the Viet- 
namese Marines were prepared for this type of 
maneuver. 

Intelligence sources reported a concentration of 
elements of at least four VC battalions in Dinh 
Tuong Province during late July. Accordingly, a 
quickly planned operation, Coronado 11/ Song Than 
63/67 began under the control of the 9th U.S. In- 
fantry Division. Other units assigned to Coronado II 
included 1st Brigade, 25th U.S. Infantry Division; 
11th Army Armored Cavalry Regiment; and the 
ARVN 44th and 52d Ranger Battalions. Marine par- 
ticipation consisted of Task Force Alpha made up of 
the 3d and 4th Marine Battalions and Battery B from 
the Marine Artillery Battalion. 

The first phase of Coronado II started on 30 July. 
Helicopters put the 3d Battalion into a landing zone 
north of the Mekong River. It was a bad zone. Im- 
mediately upon landing the battalion found itself in 
trouble. The Viet Cong occupied the heavily for- 
tified area north of the LZ in force. The 3d Battalion 
could not move. To help, the 4th Battalion went by 
helicopters into a second LZ north of the 3d Bat- 
talion's position. The 4th Battalion moved to put 
pressure on the Viet Cong positions which now lay 
between the two Marine battalions. A prisoner 
revealed that elements of the veteran 265d and 
5 14th VC Battalions faced the Marines. The battle 
raged all day in the jungle-canopied terrain as gun- 
ships, air strikes, and artillery pounded the well- 
entrenched Communists. At dusk the VC tried to 
break out, but the 3d and 4th Battalions held. Fire 
fights continued all night. 

Captain Jerry I. Simpson, senior advisor to the 3d 
Battalion, spent the entire day and most of the night 
directing supporting arms against the tough enemy 
position. Enemy mortar rounds, rockets, and small 



arms fire continued to hold back the Marines' ad- 
vance. Suddenly, at 0500 on the 31st, a VC force of 
about two companies attempted a mass break-out. 
Their path led them directly to the 3d Battalion 
command post located partly in a small hut. In the 
confused fighting which followed, the VC overran 
the CP, but Captain Simpson and surviving Marines 
drove the VC back through the CP toward the VC's 
original positions. After that, the fighting stopped 
abruptly. The remaining Viet Cong managed to slip 
away in the jungle. At 1300, helicopters extracted 
the 3d Battalion and returned it to Dong Tam. The 
4th Battalion continued sweep operations until 1500 
the next day when it too withdrew to Dong Tam. On 
1 August the 5th Battalion relieved the 3d and the 
latter moved by transport aircraft to Thu Due. 

Phase II proved uneventful and Vietnamese par- 
ticipation in Coronado II ended on 4-5 August. The 
4th and 5th Battalions returned to their Thu Due 
bases. The sharp action of 30-31 July hurt the VC in 
Dinh Tuong Province. The Marines killed 108 and 
captured six. Total South Vietnamese losses for the 
operation numbered 44 killed and 115 wounded. Of 
these, one of the dead and seven of the wounded 
were the result of friendly fires, an accident which 
provided a bitter lesson in coordination. 

Task force Alpha went to the field again on 11 
August. Operation Song Than 701-67, a three-phase 
operation in Bien Hoa Province, dragged on until 21 
October. Various battalion combinations under Task 
Force Alpha permitted the 2d, 4th, 5th, and 6th 
Battalions to participate, but the results proved 
disappointing. They killed one VC. Coordination 
problems plagued the multibattalion, joint 
U.S. /Vietnamese sweep. The most tragic error hap- 
pened on 16 September. A 155mm round, fired 
from an improperly laid howitzer scored a direct hit 
on the 6th Battalion's command post and killed 
three Marines and wounded 11. 

Credit for the most successful operational series in 
1967 belongs to the 5th Battalion. During the 
period 9 November through 22 December, the 5th 
served as one of three maneuver battalions of the 
U.S. Mobile Riverine Force. Their operations con- 
centrated in Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, and Kien 
Phong Provinces. The 5th Battalion took part in nine 
separate actions during this period. The 44 days of 
riverine operation netted the battalion the im- 
pressive total of 186 dead Communists and 32 
prisoners, including one VC province chief. 



OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 



253 



While assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force, the 
battalion normally stayed in the field for three days 
of operations, followed by a stand down period of 
the same duration. Missions generally started with 
the battalion moving in boats of the River Assault 
Division to an area of operations. Once in the assign- 
ed area, the battalion moved frequently, either by 
boat or helicopter, depending on the tactical situa- 
tion. 

A classic riverine operation, executed by Major 
Huong Van Nam's 5th Marine Battalion, started at 
midnight on 3 December as the Marines embarked 
on assault ships at Sa Dec. Their mission: destruction 
of the 261th Main Force and 502d Local Force VC 
Battalions, then located in eastern Kien Phong and 
western Dinh Tuong Provinces. The force moved 
down the northern bank of the Mekong and entered 
the Rach Ruong Canal to make a landing on the west 
bank of the canal at 0800. The plan called for the 
Marines to land, move west, and then sweep south 
back toward the Mekong. Two U.S. Army bat- 
talions, one embarked, supported the operation. 

The sun came up as the river craft entered the 
canal. All remained quiet until 0740 when the rear 
of the boat column came under light small arms fire 
from the west bank. As the column moved up the 
canal, heavier fire, including recoilless rifles and 
B-40 rockets, opened up from positions further 
north on the west bank. All of the boats returned 
fire and the South Vietnamese called in the suppor- 
ting gunships. A Communist B-40 rocket hit one of 
the ATCs (an armored troop carrying boat), and 
wounded 18 Marines. The 5th Battalion continued 
on toward its original landing beaches. Only the end 
of the column came under enemy attack. The boat 
formation carrying the 3d Battalion, 47th U.S. In- 
fantry, which followed the 5th Battalion, heard the 
enemy fire and took advantage of their warning. The 
3d Battalion promptly landed on the west bank, 
south of the first VC firing position. 

At 0800 the Communists opened fire on the 5th 
Battalion again, this time from another west bank 
position about 2,500 meters north of the last firing 
site. Obviously, a large VC force occupied the west 
bank of the Rach Ruong. Enemy B-40 rounds hit six 
ATCs. Major Nam ordered his battalion to land on 
the west bank immediately. The 2d and 3d Com- 
panies landed near Objective 18, while the 1st, 4th, 
and Headquarters Companies landed at Blue Beach 
1. 

The 1st Company became heavily engaged as soon 



as it landed, while Headquarters Company and the 
4th Company met much lighter opposition. Neither 
the 2d and 3d Companies, to the north, had any 
contact. The 4th Company moved 250 meters in- 
land, stopped, and called in air and artillery. Major 
Nam realized that his left flank units, the 1st and 
4th Companies, were engaging the northern portion 
of the VC formation, by then identified as the 502d 
Local Force Battalion. Major Nam ordered the 2d 
and 3d Companies to retract and land again at Blue 
Beach 2, move inland, seize objectives 114 and 213, 
and encircle the Communists. Both companies ac- 
complished the mission; the VC found themselves 
surrounded. The riverine force boats blocked escape 
to the east across the canal. 

By this time the 4th Company had lost contact, 
so, on Major Nam's orders, it withdrew to the beach, 
reembarked, and landed again just south of Blue 
Beach 1. The VC greeted the company's landing 
with intense rocket and automatic weapons fire. The 
guns of the assault craft established fire superiority as 
the 4th Company Marines scrambled ashore and 
gained a foothold. The 1st Company closed the ring, 
moving in from the northwest. Coordinated attacks 
by both the 1st and 4th Companies slowly rolled up 
the VC position, as the other companies blocked the 
rest of the perimeter. Contact was too close to use 
supporting arms. The Marines destroyed the enemy 
bunkers systematically, but their progress continued 
slow because their 57mm recoilless rifle had little ef- 
fect on the well-constructed Communist bunkers. 

The senior battalion advisor. Major Paul L. 
Carlson, reported final stages of the fight: 

By 1600 one major Viet Cong complex remained 600 
meters inland and withstood all assaults. Rocket gunships 
peppered the bunker system. The assaulting units then 
stormed the bunkers using grenades to destroy the opposi- 
tion and physically tore the bunkers apart with entren- 
ching tools.' 

The battle ended by 1630. Throughout the night 
and the next morning, Viet Cong survivors con- 
tinued to emerge from hiding places. Some had 
reverted to the classic VC trick of hiding under 
water, breathing through hollow reeds. The Marines 
knew the trick, also. 

Enemy casualties during the "Battle of Rach 
Ruong" totaled 175 Viet Cong killed by the 5th 
Marine Battalion. They found the bodies of the chief 
of stafl^ of the 502d Battalion, one company com- 
mander, two platoon commanders, one doctor, and 



254 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



two newsmen among the dead. The Marines cap- 
tured 12 more confirmed VC, including a province 
chief, and picked up an additional 12 suspects 
before the 5th Battalion withdrew at 1400 on 5 
December. Battalion losses amounted to 40 killed 
and 103 wounded, 34 of whom did not require 
evacuation. 

Elsewhere in the AO, other units accounted for 
another 91 enemy killed, at the cost of nine 
American soldiers killed and 89 wounded. While the 
5th Marine Battalion was scoring its resounding vic- 
tory, the 3d Battalion, 47th U.S. Infantry assaulted 
the VC positions which had fired the opening 
rounds. The Army assault prevented the Com- 
munists from going to the aid of their besieged com- 
rades to the north. The Army action provided a 
valuable assist, but the Rach Ruong battle remains as 
one of the finer moments in the brief history of the 
Vietnamese Marine Corps. 

While the 5th Battalion participated in Coronado 
IX, the 2d Marine Battalion, the major component 
of Task Force Bravo, engaged in Operation Song 
Than 808/Buena Vista. Operating with the 199th 
U.S. Infantry Brigade, TF Bravo joined Buena Vista 
on 7 December. The search and destroy operation 
covered portions of Binh Hoa and Binh Duong 
Provinces. During the 11 -day sweep, the Marines 
discovered the base camp of the VC Dong Nai Regi- 
ment and the Binh Duong Provincial Forces. The 
Marines suffered light casualties. 

The last Vietnamese Marine Operation of 1967 
was Task Force Bravo's Operation Song Than 809. 
Lasting only three days, 29-31 December, Song 
Than 809 resulted in a 20-hour battle with the 26lst 
and 263d VC Main Force Battalions in Dinh Tuong 
Province in IV CTZ. At this time TF Bravo consisted 
of the 1st and 2d Marine Battalions, reinforced by 
Battery B of the Marine Artillery Battalion; control 
of the operation rested with the 7th ARVN Division. 

Helicopters landed both battalions in separate 
zones during the morning of 29 December. There 
was no contact. On the 31st the 2d Battalion ex- 
ecuted a second helicopter assault. This time the bat- 
talion made contact immediately after landing. 

Complications came from an unexpected quarter. 
At 1700 the 7th ARVN Division forward command 



post, controlling Song Than 809, shut down opera- 
tions in anticipation of the New Year's truce. This 
left TF Bravo in the field and in contact. To make 
matters worse, the 2d Battalion almost ran out of 
ammunition and enemy fire drove off a pre-dark 
helicopter ammunition resupply. As a last recourse, 
the helicopter crewmen dropped the ammunition 
during a low pass. Unfortunately, it fell in an open, 
fire-swept area between the 2d Battalion and the 
Viet Cong. Senior battalion advisor. Major Jon A. 
Rindfleisch, and a volunteer squad of Marines raced 
out into the drop zone, gathered up the scattered 
containers, and rushed them back to the battalion's 
lines. The supply kept the 2d Battalion going 
through the night.* 

Meanwhile, to add to the uncertainty of the situa- 
tion, the 7th ARVN Division released all of its avia- 
tion at 1800, again, in anticipation of the New 
Year's truce. In spite of these disquieting 
developments, contact continued throughout the 
night, finally ending at 0530, 1 January when the 
VC withdrew. First light disclosed 85 VC bodies. 
The Marines took eight prisoners during the fight 
and picked up 71 enemy weapons. Task Force 
Bravo's losses included 28 Marines killed and 83 
wounded. This ended the last Vietnamese Marine 
action of 1967. 

During the year 1967, the Vietnamese Marines 
participated in 24 major combat operations, 15 of 
which were brigade- or task-force-scale maneuvers. 
Total VNMC casualties included 201 killed and 707 
wounded. The Communists suffered 693 killed and 
342 captured from Vietnamese Marine actions. The 
kill ratio of 3-45:1, though not as impressive as the 
U.S. Marine 1967 kill ratio of 5.18:1, was a tribute 
to the courage of the Vietnamese Marines, as well as 
the dedication of their advisors. The Marine advisors 
were fortunate during 1967; three suffered wounds 
but none died. From the advisory viewpoint, 1967 
represented a year of investment. The dividends in- 
cluded positive results; the immediate future would 
affirm the advisors' faith in the abilities of their Viet- 
namese contemporaries. 



*For this and other actions during Song Than 809, Major Rind- 
fleisch received the Silver Star Medal. 



CHAPTER 16 

The Situation at the End of the Year 

operational Aspects — Personnel and Logistics — The Outlook for Victory 
Enemy Dispositions — The Changed Situation 



Operational Aspects 

During 1967, III MAF's concerns increasingly 
focused north as it shifted the bulk of its Marine 
units toward the DMZ to counter the continuing 
threat of a North Vietnamese invasion. This threat 
forced III MAF to change its top priorities from 
pacification and counter-guerrilla warfare to fighting 
a conventional war against regular North Vietnamese 
infantry units. Enemy intentions followed a similar 
pattern. Beginning in 1966, Hanoi referred to the 
conflict as a "regular-force war," with the insurgency 
playing a secondary role.' 

The MACV commander also recognized the DMZ 
threat and, in April, reinforced III MAF with the Ar- 



my's Task Force Oregon at Chu Lai. General 
Westmoreland also planned to send the 1st U.S. 
Cavalry Division (Airmobile) to I Corps where it 
could employ its high mobility around Khe Sanh as 
it had in the Central Highlands. He saw the latter 
move as a preparatory step should Washington 
authorize a drive into Laos or an amphibious landing 
just north of the DMZ.^ 

Construction of the Dye Marker project continued 
during December, with emphasis on completing 
Strongpoint A- 3. The North Vietnamese responded 
with mortar and artillery fire. Marine units con- 
ducted continuous search and destroy operations 
around and north of A- 3 in an effort to control the 
high ground and avenues of approach to the con- 
struction site. 



An Air Force C-123 "Provider" lands on the air strip at Khe Sanh with supplies after 
Navy Seabees completed resurfacing the monsoon-damaged strip on 1 November 1967. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 




255 



256 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 
A Marine, identified only as PFC Bola, shows the 
damage done to his helmet by a near miss from 
small- arms fire while at the Con Thien combat base. 

Enemy units engaged in two types of activity dur- 
ing the final month of the year. In the early weeks of 
December, the North Vietnamese initiated a series 



of limited ground attacks along the DMZ using units 
as large as companies. Enemy forces also overran and 
destroyed the Binh Son District Headquarters on 5 
December. During the final two weeks of 1967, 
however, the enemy assumed a more defensive 
posture, only to sustain heavier casualties because of 
having to fight at a time and place not of their 
choosing. 

The statistics from III MAP in December provided 
ample evidence that the enemy was not yet defeated. 
Ill MAP conducted 1 1 large-unit operations during 
the month. The Marines killed a confirmed total of 
1,237 enemy soldiers and listed another 701 as 
probably killed. Marines also captured 77 prisoners 
and 362 weapons; however, 96 Marines died in 
December. 

During 1967, U.S. forces under III MAP control 
killed 25,452 enemy soldiers and listed another 
23,363 as probably killed. These enemy losses total- 
ed 14,728 more than in 1966, a reflection of the in- 
creased scale of large-unit battles in northern I 
Corps. These forced the North Vietnamese to feed 
over 24,000 replacements into their units in I Corps 
during the year. By comparison, over 3,600 
Americans died in I Corps during the same period. 

There were bright spots in the picture for III MAP 
at the end of 1967. During the year, the North Viet- 
namese had attempted to conquer the northern pro- 
vinces of South Vietnam only to suffer defeat each 
time they took the offensive. Meanwhile, the South 



Men of the 5d Battalion, 26th Marines stand in a loose formation beside the air strip at 
Khe Sanh just after arriving in transport aircraft to reinforce the base in December 1961 . 

3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 



f ^,..^^ ^^^ 



'if^ffm- 



' MKm-T^-' ;^^. 






% *■ * 



THE SITUATION AT THE END OF THE YEAR 



257 



Vietnamese Army, as a whole, grew by 130,000 dur- 
ing the year. Its units in I Corps were at 101.7 per- 
cent strength, despite considerable losses due to 
desertions by former peasants unhappy with 
assignments far from their home villages and pro- 
vinces. The arrival of U.S. Army units in I Corps for 
service under III MAF also eased the Marines' troop 
density problem. 

Ill MAF had 79 Combined Action Platoons in 
operation; these killed 259 of the enemy and cap- 
tured 56 during the second half of the year. Pacifica- 
tion appeared to be regaining the momentum it lost 
in 1966, which accounted for the increase in ARVN 
strength and the increasing difficulty faced by the 
Viet Cong in recruiting new members. Finally, 
Highway 1, the main north-south artery, was open 
from the DMZ to the border of Binh Dinh 
Province.^ 

Personnel and Logistics 

The average strength for III MAF during 
December was 103,591, which was 4,203 higher 
than the previous month. Most of these personnel 
were Marines (72,782), but 27,565 were in U.S. Ar- 
my units. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force con- 
tributed 3,161 and 83, respectively. 

There were some changes underway in III MAF's 
force structure as the year ended. Ill MAF had orders 
to deactivate its antitank battalions and to activate 
another company, Company E, for the 3d Recon- 
naissance Battalion, a unit of the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion. 

Ill MAF faced several significant logistics 
problems in the final month of 1967, primarily from 
the effects of the northeast monsoon. Channel 
silting brought on by bad weather and high seas 
forced the closing of the LST facility at Tan My on 10 
December. Cua Viet's LST facility also closed from 
7-29 December for the same reason. Further, the 
rough seas prevented transshipment of materials at 
Da Nang for seven days. The weather also affected 
airlift capabilities; for example, high winds limited 
or curtailed C-123 flight operations for 23 days dur- 
ing December. However, the air strip at Due Pho 
opened for C-130 use on 4 December 1967. 

The M16A1 rifles continued to provide problems 
for Marines in Vietnam. A random inspection of 
rifles issued in the first increment of weapons reveal- 
ed that a large number had pitted and eroded 
chambers. Ill MAF then terminated the issue of the 
second increment. As of 17 December, a FLC con- 



•«vi" * 




3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 
Men from the id Engineer Battalion use a bulldozer 
at Con Thien in December to push aside some of the 
monsoon-created mud in an attempt to make it 
easier for Marines to walk inside the combat base. 

tract team had inspected 9,844 rifles and found that 
6,603 (67 percent) required replacement. At III 
MAF's request, Headquarters, Marine Corps in- 
itiated action to obtain chromed chambers for in- 
stallation by June 1968. 

Finally, III MAF logisticians were not pleased with 
a MACV study, published late in the year. The 
theme of the study was a desire for a downward revi- 
sion of authorized stock levels with the expectation 
of reducing construction costs and achieving 
operating economies. In essence, the study called for 
fighting a war under peacetime management prin- 
ciples under which stock levels reflected previous 
usage data. Both III MAF and FMFPac took the posi- 
tion that any reduction in authorized stock levels 
would impair III MAF's operational capabilities and 
lower the Marines' readiness for emergencies. 

The Outlook for Victory 

As the year entered its last quarter, the war ap- 
peared to be going well. General Westmoreland, in 
his often-quoted speech on 21 September at the Na- 
tional Press Club in Washington expressed optimism 
about the future course of the war. He expressed his 
belief that the defeats inflicted on the enemy in the 



258 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 




Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A422006 
South Vietnam's Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky meets with LtGen Hoang Xuan Lam, 
the I Corps commander; LtGen Robert E. Cushman, Jr. , the III MAP commander; and 
Army MajGen Samuel W. Koster of the Americal Division at Chu Lai on 28 December. 



past year, plus the continued growth of the ARVN 
would permit phasing out U.S. units within about 
two years. "I am absolutely certain," he said, "that 
whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is 
certainly losing. "'' 

Westmoreland's speech coincided with the 
Johnson Adminstration's highly publicized "pro- 
gress" campaign in the fall of 1967. That campaign 
sought to show that the allies were winning the war 
in South Vietnam. General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., 
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was, 
however, one of the few officials who did speak out 
on the problems still remaining. His statements, 
which received little media attention, reflected the 
concerns of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and III 
MAF over inadequate manpower, particularly in the 
I Corps area. At a speech in Chicago in September, 
General Greene said: 

In the Marines' area of South Vietnam alone, we have 
1,282,000 people inside our security screen. We must dou- 
ble that number. This will take time — and fighting men 
on the ground. 

We have over 2,000 square miles of territory inside the 
same screen of security. But we need a total of 3,000 
square miles. 

Again, it will take time — and fighting men on the 
ground to do this, 

I cite these figures just to give you some idea of the pro- 
blems—in the Marines' area alone,' 



Enemy Dispositions 

The number of regular NVA soldiers in I Corps 
numbered just over 21,000 at the end of the year. 
Their distribution was follows: 

Quang Tri Province. The major units were the 
8Uth and 90th Regiments of the i24B NVA Divi- 
sion, the 29th and 9^th Regiments of the 525 C NVA 
Division, and the 2d Battalion and regimental head- 
quarters of the 9th NVA Regiment. Other forces in 
the province included the 5th NVA Regiment, the 
21th NVA Independent Battalion, and four in- 
dependent companies. Total: 10,805. 

Thua Thien Province. The Northern Front Head- 
quarters, the 5th NVA Regiment, four independent 
NVA battalions, and four independent companies 
operated in the province. Total: 3,645. 

Quang Nam Province. This area contained the 
568B NVA Artillery Regiment, four independent 
NVA battalions, and four independent NVA com- 
panies. Total: 2,940. 

Quang Tin Province. Operating in this province 
were the headquarters and other support units of the 
2d NVA Division, the 1st Vietcong Main Force Regi- 



THE SITUATION AT THE END OF THE YEAR 



259 



ment, the 2lst NVA Regiment, the 5d NVA Regi- 
ment, three independent NVA battahons, and seven 
NVA independent companies. Totah 6,073. 

Quang Ngai Province. The major units were the 
headquarters of Military Region 3, the 97 tS Bat- 
talion of the 2d Vietcong Main Force Regiment, six 
independent NVA battahons, and nine indepen- 
dent NVA companies. Total: 3,645. 

The Changed Situation 

The bright element of the tactical situation pic- 
ture quickly faded at year's end in the face of moun- 
ting evidence of an impending major enemy offen- 
sive. General Westmoreland's optimistic speech at 
the National Press Club in September had been bas- 
ed upon an analysis that indicated the allies were 
winning the war. Hanoi read the same signs and 
changed its strategy. 

Previously, Hanoi followed a strategy of pro- 
tracted war; however, late in 1967 captured 
documents began containing exhortations for enemy 
units to make a maximum effort politically and 
militarily to win the war quickly. During the same 
period, the number of enemy defectors decreased 
and captured prisoners began speaking of the com- 
ing "final victory." Intelligence sources in I Corps in- 
dicated the 2d NVA Division was shifting its area of 



operations in preparation for an offensive. Other 
sources reported the 325 C NVA Division had moved 
back to positions near Hill 881 North, while the 
304th NVA Division, which listed Dien Bien Phu 
among its battle honors, had moved from Laos to 
positions southwest of Khe Sanh. 

General Westmoreland analyzed these and similar 
reports and detected an alteration in enemy strategy. 
On 20 December, he explained the changed situa- 
tion in a message to his superiors in Washington. He 
emphasized the enemy might seek to gain a major 
military victory somewhere in South Vietnam, or 
perhaps even seek to gain an apparent position of 
strength before assenting to negotiations. "In short," 
wrote Westmoreland, "I believe the enemy has 
already made a crucial decision to make a maximum 
effort."^ 

General Westmoreland considered the base at 
Khe Sanh an obvious target for an enemy offensive 
and ordered III MAP to conduct a buildup in 
preparation for a fight for the base.' In the last few 
days of 1967 he repeatedly advised reporters to ex- 
pect "an intensified campaign in the coming 
months." The President echoed these expectations 
when he told the Australian cabinet about the 
enemy buildup. "We must try very hard to be 
ready," said President Johnson. "We face dark days 
ahead. "^ 



Amid the mud, barbed wire, sand-bagged positions, and welter of supplies at the Con 
Thien combat base, a young Marine stands radio watch as the year 1961 draws to a close. 

3d MarDiv ComdC, December 1967 





Notes 



PARTI 
The DMZ in Early 1967 

CHAPTER 1 
THE SITUATION AT THE START OF THE YEAR 

Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived 
from: Admiral Ulysses S. G. Sharp, USN, and General 
Westmoreland, USA, Report on the War In Vietnam, hereafter 
Sharp and Westmoreland, Report on the War, FMFPac, U.S. 
Marine Forces in Vietnam Mar63-Sep67 Historical Summary, 
Volume I: Narrative; FMFPac monthly summaries. Operation of 
U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, Jan-Jun67; III MAF ComdCs, Jan- 
Jun67; 3d Marine Division ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 1st Marine Air- 
craft Wing ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 3d Marine Division AAR, Opera- 
tion Prairie I, 28 Apr67; Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, 
"Marine Corps Operation in Vietnam, 1967," USNI, Naval 
Review 1969, hereafter Simmons "USMC Ops in RVN, 1967." 
Unless otherwise noted all documentary material cited is located 
in the Marine Corps Historical Center (MCHC), Washington, 
DC. 

1. Colonel John C. Studt, Comments on draft nis, l4May81. 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.). 

2. Quoted in Sharp and Westmoreland, Report On The War, p. 
132. 

3. LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.). 



CHAPTER 2 

SPRING ACTION SOUTH OF THE 
DMZ -FEBRUARY- APRIL 1967 

Unless otherwise noted, the material in this chapter is derived 
from FMFPac monthly summaries. Operations of U.S. Marine 
Forces, Vietnam, Jan-Jun67, hereafter FMFPac, MarOpsV 
(month, year); III MAF ComdC Jan-Jun67; 3d MarDiv ComdC, 
Jan-Jun67; 1st MAW ComdC, Jan-Jun67; BGen Edwin H. Sim- 
mons, "Marine Corps Operations in Vietnam, 1967," USNI, 
Naval Review 1969, hereafter Simmons, "USMC Ops, RVN." 
Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located 
at the Marine Corps Historical Center (MCHC), Washington, 
D.C.) 



Opetation Prairie I Continues 

Additional material in this section is derived from 3d MarDiv 
AAR, Opn Prairie I, 28Apr67; 3d Mar ComdC, Jan67; 12th Mar 
ComdC, Jan67; 3/4 ComdC, Jan67. All documentary material 
cited is in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Operation Ptairie II 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 3d MarDiv AAR, Opn Prairie II, 19May67; 3d Mar 
ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 4th Mar ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 9th Mar Com- 
dC, Feb-Mar67; 12th Mar ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 3d Recon Bn 
ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 2/3 ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 3/3 ComdC, Feb- 
Mar67; 3/4 ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 1/9 ComdC, Feb-Mar67; 2/9 
ComdC, Feb-Mar67. All documentary material cited is in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. LtCol Robert F. Sheridan, comments on draft MS, lljun81 
(Vietnam Comment File). 

2. Ibid. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid. 
3. Ibid. 

Operation Prairie III 

Additional material in this section is derived from 3d MarDiv 
AAR, Opn Prairie III, 13Jun67; 3d Mar ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 3d 
Recon Bn ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 11th Engr Bn ComdC, Mar- 
Apr67; 3/3 ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 1/4 ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 3/4 
ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 1/9 ComdC, Mar-Apr67; 3/9 ComdC, Mar- 
Apr67. All documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, DC. 



CHAPTER 3 

COMBINED US/ARVN OPERATIONS 
IN THE DMZ 

Unless otherwise noted, the material in this chapter is derived 
from 3d MarDiv AAR, Opn Prairie IV, 13Jul67; 3d MarDiv AAR, 
Opn Hickory, 3Aug67; SLF Alpha (TG 79.4) AAR, Opn Beau 
Charger/Hickory, 10Jun67; 1/3 AAR, Opn Beau Charger, 
12Jun67; HMM 263 AAR, Opn Beau Charger, 10Jun67; SLF 
Bravo (TG 79.5) AAR, Opn Belt Tight /Hickory, 22Jun67. Unless 
otherwise noted, all documentary cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

261 



262 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Operation Prairie IV Begins 

Additional material in this section is derived from 9th Mar 
ComdC, May67; 3/3 ComdC, May67; 1/4 ComdC, May67; 1/9 
ComdC, May67; 3/9 ComdC, May67; 11th Engr Bn ComdC, 
May67. 

Attack on Con Thien 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 1/4 ComdC, May67; 1 1th Engr Bn ComdC, May67; 
1st Amtrac Bn ComdC, May67. 

1. LtCol Rheaford C. Bell, Comments on draft ms, 25May81 
(Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

Into the DMZ 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 111 MAP ComdC, May67; 3d MarDiv ComdC, 
May67; 1st MAW ComdC, May67, 3d Mar ComdC, May67; 9th 
Mar ComdC, May67' 1/4 ComdC, May67; 3/4 ComdC, May67; 
1/9 ComdC, May67; 2/9 ComdC, May67; 3/9 ComdC, May67; 
2/26 ComdC, May67; HMM-164 ComdC, May67; HMM-363 
ComdC, May67. 

2. BGen Harvey E. Spielman, Comments on draft ms, 27May81 
(Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

Operation Beau Charger 

Additional material in this section was derived from 1/3 
ComdC, May67; HMM-263 ComdC, May67. 

Operation Hickory 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section was 
derived from 3d MarDiv ComdC, May67; 3d Mar ComdC, 
May67; 2/3 ComdC, May67; 3/4 ComdC, May67; 2/9 ComdC, 
May67; 3/9 ComdC, May67; HMM-164 ComdC, May67. 

3. Col Duncan D. Chaplin, III, Comments on draft ms, 31May81 
(Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter 
Chaplin comments, MaySl. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Col James R. Stockman, Comment on draft ms, 27jun81; 
Chaplin comments, May81. 

Operation Prairie FV Ends 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 3d MarDiv ComdC, May67; 3/4 ComdC, May67. 

6. Maj Walter E. Deese, Comments on draft ms, 9Jul81 (Vietnam 
Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Deese 
comments, Jul81. 

7. 3d MarDiv ComdC, May67; Deese comments, Jul81. 



CHAPTER 4 
THE FIRST BATTLE OF KHE SANH 



Unless otherwise noted, the material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, MarOpsV, Jan-Jun67; 1st MAW ComdC, Apr- 
May67; 3d Mar AAR, Khe Sanh, dtd 9Jun67; 1/3 AAR, Opn 
Prairie I, 7Feb67; Sharp and Westmoreland, Report on the War; 
Capt Moyers S. Shore, II, The Battle for Khe Sanh (Washington: 
HisBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, 1969), hereafter Shore, Khe Sanh; Maj 
Michael W. Sayers, Comments on draft ms, 18May81 (Vietnam 
Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Sayers 
Comments, MaySl, Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

The Early Days 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 3d Mar ComdC, Apr67; 1/3 ComdC, Sep66-Feb67; 
1/9 ComdC, Feb-Apr67; 2/9 ComdC, Mar67; 2/ 12 ComdC, Feb- 
Apr67. Unless otherwise noted all documentary material is located 
in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. Sayers comments, MaySl; 2dLt John M. Kramer, intvw by 3d 
MarDiv dtd 28Feb67, (No. 367, OralHist Coll, MCHC). 

2. Ill MAF ComdC, Mar67, p. 3; LtGen Louis Robertshaw, com- 
ments on draft ms, 29May81 (Vietnam Comment File, MCHC). 

3. Capt William B. Terrill, et.al., intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 
24Mar67, (No. 1017, OralHistCoU, MCHC). 

4. Sayers Comments, MaySl. 

Opening Moves of the Battle 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from: 3d Mar ComdC, Apr-May67; MAG-11 ComdC, 
Apr-May67; MAG-12 ComdC, Apr-May67; MAG-16 ComdC, 
Apr-May67; 1/3 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/3 ComdC, Apr-May67; 
1/9 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/9 ComdC, Apr-May67; 2/12 Com- 
dC, Apr-May67; 3/13 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3d AT Bn ComdC, 
Apr-May67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, DC. 

5. SSgt Leon R. Burns intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd SMay67, (No. 
993, Oral Hist Coll, MCHC); 2dLt Thomas G. King, intvw by 3d 
MarDiv dtd SMay67, (No. 994, Oral Hist Coll, MCHC), hereafter 
King Intvw. 

6. Sayers Comments, MaySl. 

7. King Intvw. 

Hill 861 

Unless otherwise noted, additional matetial in this section is 
derived from: 3d Mar ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/3 ComdC, Apr- 
May67; 1/9 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/9 ComdC, Apr-May67. 

8. Sayers comments, MaySl. 

9. Capt Bayliss L. Spivey, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 13May67, 
(No. 950, OralHistColl, MCHC) heteafter Spivey Intvw; LtCol 
Bayliss L. Spivey, Comments on draft ms, 2SMay81 and ISJunSl 
(Vietnam Comment File, MCHC). 



10. 


Sayers 


Comments, 


MaySl. 


11. 


Spivey 


Intvw, May67. 


12. 


Sayers 


Comments, 


MaySl, 


13. 


Ibid. 






14. 


Ibid. 






15. 


Ibid. 







NOTES 



263 



Reinforcing the Hill 861 Attack 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 1st MAW ComdC, Apr-May67; 2/3 ComdC, Apr- 
May67; 3/3 ComdC, Apr-May67; 1/12 ComdC, Apr-May67; 
2/12 ComdC, Apr-May67. 

16. LtCol Rodney D. McKitrick, Comments on draft ms, 
15jun81, (Vietnam Comment File, MCHC), hereafter, McKitrick 
Comments. 

Attacking Hill 881S 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from: 2/3 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/3 ComdC, Apr- 
May67; 2/9 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/9 ComdC, Apr-May67. 

17. SSgt Ruben Santos, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 12May67, (No. 
949, OralHistColl, MCHC). 

The Final Objective: Hill 881N 

Unless otherwise noted, additional i vaterial in this section is 
derived from: 2/3 ComdC, Apr-May67; 3/3 ComdC, Apr- 
May67; 1/26 ComdC, May67. 

18. IstLt Frank M. Izenour, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 12May67, 
(No. 2105, OralHistColl, MCHC). 

19. McKitrick Comments, Jun81. 

20. 2dLt Terry M. Weber, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 12May67, 
(No. 996, OralHistColl, MCHC). 

21. Sea Tiger, 19May67, p. 3. PFC Lopez received the Navy Cross 
for this action. 

22. BGen Edwin H. Simmons, "Marine Corps Operations in Viet- 
nam, 1967," USNI, Naval Review 1969, p. 136, records a 
favorable comment on the M-16. For a negative view, see Col 
Peter L. Hilgartner, Comments on draft ms, 2Jun81, (Vietnam 
Comment File, MCHC). 

End of the Battle 

Additional material in this section is derived from: 26th Mar 
ComdC, Apr-Jul67; 1/26 ComdC, May-Jul67; 3/26 ComdC, 
May-Jul67. 

PART II 
Spring Fighting in Southern I Corps 

CHAPTER 5 
THE WAR IN SOUTHERN I CORPS 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, "U.S. Marine Corps Force in Vietnam Mar63- 
Sep67, Historical Summary," v. I: Narrative, FMFPac Operations 
of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jan-Jun67; 
III MAFComdCsJan-Jun67; 1st Mar Div ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 1st 
MAW ComdCs Jan-Jun67; Task Force X-RAY ComdCs, Jan- 
Apr67. All documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

Operation Desoto 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: III MAF Journal File, Operation Desoto, 27Jan- 



7Apr67; Task Force X-RAY, sit reps. Operation Desoto, 27Jan- 
7Apr67; 3/7 AAR Operation Desoto, ljun67; 3/7 ComdCs, Jan- 
Jun67; HMH 463 ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 3/ 12 ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 
1st Engr Bn ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; Col Francis V. White, Com- 
ments on draft ms, 22Nov82. All documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. LtCol Edward J. Bronars intvw by Isr MarDiv, dtd 3Apr67, 
(No. 808, Oral HistCollection, H&MDiv, HQMC). 

2. Captain Kenneth W.Johnson, intvw by Combat Information 
Bureau during Operation Desoto, (No. 0619, Oral HistCollec- 
tion, HMDiv, HQMC). 

3. Col Robert C. Rice, Comments on draft ms, lOJunSI, (Viet- 
nam Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

Deckhouse / Desoto 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: SLF (TG 79.5) AAR Operation Deckhouse VI, 
l4Mar67; 1/4 AAR Operation Deckhouse VI, 9Mar67; HMM 363 
AAR Operation Deckhouse VI, 12Mar67. 1/5 AAR Operation 
Deckhouse VI/Desoto, 10Mar67, hereafter 1/5 AAR, 
Deckhouse/Desoto. All documentary material cited is located in 
the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

4. HMM-363 AAR, Operation Deckhouse VI, 12Mar67. 
4A. 1/5 AAR; Desoto /Deckhouse, p. 14. 

Desoto Continued 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: III MAF Journal File, Operation Desoto, 27jan- 
7Apr67; Task Force X-Ray, sit reps. Operation Desoto, 27 Jan- 
7Apr67; 3/7 AAR Operation Desoto, ljun67; 3/7 ComdCs, Jan- 
Jun67: HMH 463 ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 3/12 ComdCs, Jan-Jun67: 
1st Engr Bn. ComdCs, Jan-Jun67. All documentary material cited 
is located in the MCHC, Washinghton, D.C. 

5. Col Robert C. Rice, Comments on draft ms, lOJunSl, (Viet- 
nam Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

6. Captain Patrick J. Morgan intvw by 1st MarDiv, dtd 4Apr67, 
(No. 811, OralHistColl, HMDiv, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

7. LtCol Joseph T. Smith, Comments on draft ms, 30May81, 
(Vietnam Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

8. Ibid. 

Operation Union 

Unless otherwise noted additional material in this section is 
derived from: Isi Mar ComdCs, Jan-Apr67; 5th Mar ComdCs, 
Jan-Jun67; 5th Mar AAR Operation Union, 20jun67; 1/5 AAR 
Operation Union, 29May67; 3/5 AAR Operation Union I, Jun67; 
3/1 ComdC, Apr67; 1/1 ComdC, Apr-May67. All documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, DC. 

9. Col Emil J. Radics, Comments on draft ms, 19May81, (Com- 
ments files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

10. Ibid. 

11. LtCol Peter L. Hilgartner intvw by 1st MarDiv, dtd 4Apr67, 
(No. 1233, Oral HistCollHist MusDiv, MCHC, Washington, 
D.C.) 

12. Col Peter L. Hilgartner, Comments on draft ms, 2Jun81, 
(Comments files, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Hilgart- 
ner comments, 2Jun81. 

13. 5th Mar AAR, Operation Union, p. 7. 



264 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Union II 

Unless otherwise noted additional material in this section is 
derived from: 5th Mar AAR Operation Union II, 17Jul67; 1/3 
AAR Operation Union II, I6jun67; 2/5 AAR Operation Union 
II, 8Jun67; 3/5 AAR Operation Union II, lljun67. Unless other- 
wise noted, all documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washmgton, D.C. 

14. Col Mallett C. Jackson, Comments on draft ms, 24May81, 
(Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

15. Ibid. 

16. Hilgartner Comments, 2Jun81 

17. Ibid. 

CHAPTER 6 
TASK FORCE OREGON 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: "U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam Mar65-Sep67, 
Historical Summary," v. I: Narrative, hereafter, fMFFac HistSum: 
FMFPac Operations of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly 
summaries, Jan-Dec67, hereafter FMFPac USMC Ops inRVN; III 
MAF ComdCsJan-Dec67: Department of Defense, United States- 
Vietnam Relations, \9A')-G1 , 12 Bks (Washington: GPO, 1971), 
hereafter Pentagon Papers. Additional sources for this section are: 
CMC Trip Reports, Jan and Aug 67, hereafter CMC Trip Report; 
HQMC Cmd Center Operation Oregon File; III MAFJournal File, 
Operation Oregon, pts I and II; 1st MarDiv ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 
Task Force X-Ray CmdC, Apr67. Unless otherwise noted, all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
D.C. 

1. MACV msg No. 41191 to CinCPac, 13Sep66, as cited in Pen- 
tagon Papers, bk5, v. II, p. 64. 

2. LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981), 
(Vietnam Comment files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

3. CMC debriefing at FMFPac Headquarters, 11 January 1967, 
CMC file (Archives, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

4. MACV msg 09101 to CinCpac, 18Mar67, as cited in Pentagon 
Papers, bk5, v. II, p. 64. 

5. COMUSMACV 10248 to CinCPac, 28 Mar67, subject: Program 
4 Force Requirements, as cited in Pentagon Papers, hV"), v. II, 
p.71. 

PART III 

Continuing Action 

Along the DMZ 

CHAPTER 7 

THE BARRIER -ANOTHER APPROACH 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: "U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam 'Iar65-Sep67, 
Historical Summary," V. I: Narrative, hereditei FMrPac HisiSum; 
FMFPac Operations of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly 
summaries, Jan-Dec67, hereafter FMFPac USMC Ops in RVN; III 
MAF ComdCs Jan-Dec67; Department of Defense, United States 



Vietnam Relations, 1945-67, 12 bks (Washington: GPO, 1971), 
hereafter Pentagon Papers. MACV Cmd History, 1967. All 
documentary material cited in located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

Evolution of the Concept 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section was 
derived from: III MAF Dye Marker msg file; III MAF Op-Admin 
Plans 11-67; III MAF Op-Admin Plans 12-67; 3d MarDiv Com- 
dC, Oct66; 3d MarDiv ComdCs, Jan-Mar67; BGen Edwin H. 
Simmons, "Marine Corps Operations in Vietnam, 1967," USNI, 
Naval Review 1969, hereafter Simmons "USMC Ops in RVN 
1967." All documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

1. Dr. Robert J. Watson, Comments on draft ms, 26May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

2. Pentagon Papers, bk 5, v.l, p. 66 

3. Copies of MACV working papers on barrier concept. End 2, to 
3d MarDiv ComdC, Oct 66. 

4. See Briefing Paper, Practice Nine Requirement Plan of 
26Jan67, End 6, 3d MarDiv ComdC, Jan67. 

5. LtGen John R. Chaisson, intvw by Historical Division, HQMC, 
dtd 3Apr72, (Oral HistColl MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

6. Memo, DirJTF 728 to SecDef, dtd 22Dec66, Subj: Plan for In- 
creased Anti-infiltration Capability for SEA in Box 8 Barrier Star- 
bird Folder (MACV Historical Records, 69A702); also FMFPac 
Journal File. 

7. Practice Nine briefing paper. End 6 to 3d MarDiv ComC, 
6Jan67. 

8. Practice Nine briefing paper for Under SecNav Baldwin, End 3 
to 3d MarDiv ComC, Jan67. 

9. CinCPAC 060820Z February 1967 toJCS, Subj: "Barrier Plan." 
as cited in Pentagon Papers, bk 5, v. II, p. 43. 

Building the Barrier 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from: III MAF Op-Admin Plans 12-67; 3d MarDiv Com- 
dCs, Mar-Dec67; 9th Mar ComdCs, Mar-Dec67; 3d Bn, 4th Mar 
ComdCs, Aug-Sep67; Uth Engr Bn ComdCs, Mar-Dec67; and 
Simmons "USMC Operations in Vietnam, 1967." All documen- 
tary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

10. ComUSMACV msg to CG III MAF, 261038Z Mar 67, Subj: 
Strong Point Obstacle System. Also SecState msg to AMEmb 
Saigon, 161730Z Mar67, Subj: SVN Strong Point-Obstacle 
System, III MAF, Dye Marker msg file. 

11. ComUSMACV msg to CinCPac, dtd 191125Z Apr67, III 
MAF, Dye Marker msg file. 

12. CG III MAF msg to ComUSMACV, dtd 261046Z Apr67, III 
MAF, Dye Marker msg file. 

13. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd 30Jul67. 

14. Col George E. Jerue, Comments on draft ms, 25May81, (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

15. LtCol Lee R. Bendell, Comments on draft ms, 25May81, 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

16. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd l6Aug67. 

17. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd 5Sep67. The 3 September 
artillery attack on Dong Ha is covered in Chapter 14. 

18. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd 13Sep67. 



NOTES 



265 



19. in MAF Operation Plan 12-67, dtd 12Sep67. 

20. MajGen Louis Metzger, Itr to CG, FMFPac, Subj: Debrief, 
22Jan68 (Archives, MCHC, Washington, D.C.); LtCol Willard 
N. Christopher, Comments on draft ms, 31Jul81 (Vietnam Com- 
ment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

21. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd 220ct67. 

22. Ill MAF, Dye Marker msg file, dtd 240ct67. 

23. FMFPac, USMC Ops in RVN, Dec67. 

24. Quoted in Simmons, "USMC Ops in RVN 1967," p. 134. 

CHAPTER 8 

CON THIEN AND THE SUMMER BATTLES 
ALONG THE DMZ 



8. Ma| Henry J. M. Radcliffe intvw by MCHC, dtd l4Dec73. 

9. Maj Darrell C. Danielson, intvw by 3d MarDiv, 7jul67, (No. 
1264, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

10. LtCol Albert C. Slater, Comments on draft ms, 21May81, 
(Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter 
Slater comments. 

11. Capt Burrell H. Landes, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd (No. 1519, 
Oral HistCollecnon, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

12. Slater comments. 

13. Ibid. 

14. Ibid.; Navy Cross Citation, Cpl James L. Stuckey, Dec&Med 
Br, HQMC, Washington, D.C. 

13. Col George E. Jerue, Comments on draft MS of "t/.i. Marines 
m Vietnam." "px. V, 12Jan70. 



Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from; "U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam, Mar65-Sep67, 
Historical Summary," v. I; FMFPac Operations of U.S. Marine 
Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jul-Dec67; 111 MAF Com- 
dCs, Jul-Dec67; 3d MarDiv ComdCs, Jul-Dec67; 3d Mar Com- 
dCs,Jul-Dec67; 9th Mar ComdCs, Jul-Dec67; 12th Mar ComdCs, 
Jul-Dec67; MAG- 16 ComdCs, Jul-Oct67; 1st Mar ComdCs, Oct- 
Dec67; LtCol Ralph F. Moody et al, "Marines m Vietnam," Ms. 
(Archives, MCHC, Washington, D.C); Brigadier General Edwin 
H. Simmons, "Marine Corps Operations in Vietnam, 1967" 
USNI, Naval Review 1969." All documentary material cited is 
located in MCHC, Washington, DC. 

Why Con Thien? 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from: III MAF ComdCs, Jan-Aug67; 3d MarDiv ComdCs, 
Mar-Aug67; 9th Mar ComdCs, Mar-Aug67. All documentary 
material is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Operation Buffalo 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from: 1/9 AAR Operation Buffalo; 3/9 AAR Operation 
Buffalo; 1/3 AAR Operation Buffalo; 2/3 AAR Operation Buf- 
falo; 9th Mar AAR Operation Buffalo; 3d Mar AAR Operation 
Buffalo. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the Historical Branch, History and Museums Division, 
HQMC. 

1. Col Richard B. Smith, "Leatherneck Square," Marine Corps 
Gazette, Vol. 83, No. 8 (Aug 69), p. 35. 

2. Col George E. Jerue, Comments on draft ms, 25May81, (Viet- 
nam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

3. IstLt William F. Delany intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 7Jul67 (No. 
1269, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C) 

4. Maj Darrell C Daniels on intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 7Jul67, 
(No. 1264, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

5. SSgt Leon R. Burns intvw by 3dMarDiv, dtd 7Jul67 (No. 1265, 
Oral HistCollection MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereaftet Burns 
intvw. 

6. Col Richard J. Schening, Comments on draft ms, 26May81, 
(Vietnam comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

7. Burns intvw. 



PART IV 
Fall Combat, North and South 

CHAPTER 9 

CONTINUING OPERATIONS AGAINST 

THE 2D NVA DIVISION 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, "U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam Mar65- 
Sep67, Historical Summary," v. 1: Narrative; FMFPac Operations 
of U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jun-Dec67 
III MAF ComdCs, Jun-Dec67; 1st MarDiv ComdCs, Jun-Dec67 
1st MAW ComdCs, Jun-Dec67; MAG-36 ComdCs, Jun-Dec67 
MAG-16 ComdCs, Jun-Dec67; 1st Mars ComdCs, Jun-Dec67; 7th 
Mars ComdCs, Jun-Dec67; 2/5 ComdCs Jun-Dec67; 3/5 Com- 
dCs, Jun-Dec67; FJ. West, Jr., The Enclave: Some U.S. Military 
Efforts in Ly Tin District, Quang Tin Province 1966-1968, (Santa 
Monica: The Rand Corporation, 1969), hereafter West, The 
Enclave. All documentary material cited is located in the MCHC 
Washington, D.C. 

Raids and Rockets in Quang Nam 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from III MAF ComdC,Jul67; 5th Mar ComdC,Jul67; 2/5 
ComdC, Jul67; and 2/11 ComdC, Jul67. All documentary 
material is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. 2/5 ComdC, Jul67, p. 3. 

2. West, The Enclave, pp. 42-45. 

3. Col Joseph T. Smith, Comments on draft ms, 30May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

Operation Cochise 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: Task Force X-Ray Operations Order 1-67 (Opera- 
tion Cochise), dtd 9Aug67; 5th Mat AAR, Operation Cochise, 
dtd 20Sep67; 1/5 AAR, Operation Cochise, dtd 3Sep67; 3/5 
AAR, Operation Cochise, dtd lSep67; 1/3 AAR, Operation 
Cochise, dtd 3Sep67. All documentary material cited is located in 
the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 



266 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



4. MAG-36, ComdC, Sep67, End 1, p. 1. 

Operation Swift 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: Task Force X-Ray AAR, Operation Swift, dtd 
20Oct67; 5th Mars AAR, Operation Swift, dtd llOct67; 1/5 
AAR, Operation Swift, dtd 27Sep67; 3/5 AAR, Operation Swift, 
dtd 22Sep67; 2/11 AAR, Operation Swift, dtd 29Sep67; LtCol 
Gene W. Bowers, Comments on draft ms, 15Sep81 (Vietnam 
Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.), hereafter Bowers 
comments. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material 
cited in located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

5. Col Philip M. Crosswait, Comments on draft ms, I4jul81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

6. Col Peter L. Hilgartner, Comments on draft ms, 2Jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comn-ient file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

7. Ibid. 

8. Cpl Joseph E. Fuller, et. al. intvw by 1st MarDiv, dtd 19Sep67 
(No. 1612, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

9. Sgt James E. Dougherty, et al., intvw by 1st MarDiv, dtd 
23Sep67. LCpl Henshaw account in reel 3, side 2 and reel 4, side 
1. (No. 1630, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

10. IstLt Donald R. Dunagan, intvw by IstMarDiv dtd 20Sep67 
(No. 1294, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

11. Bowers comments. 

12. Ibid. 

13. Col William R. Earney, Comments on draft ms, 2jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

14. Ibid. 

A Busy Calm Before the Storm 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 7th Mar AAR, Operation Foster, dtd l4Jan68; 2/3 
AAR, Operation Badger Hunt/Foster, dtd 7Dec67; 2/5 AAR, 
Operation Essex, dtd 29Nov67; and LtCol Gene W. Bowers, 
Comments on draft ms, 15Sep81 (Vietnam Comment file, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C.) hereafter Bowers Comments.. Unless 
otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

15. LtGen DonnJ. Robertson, Comments on draft ms, 4Jun81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

16. 2/5 AAR, Operation Essex, p. 16-17. 

17. Ibid., p. 17. 

18. Bowers comments. 

CHAPTER 10 
FALL FIGHTING IN THE NORTH 

Unless otherwise noted, the material for this chapter was der- 
vied from: III MAF ComdC, Jul-Dec67; 3d MarDiv ComdCs, Jul- 
Dec67; 9th Mar ComdCs, Jul-Dec67; 3d Mar ComdCs, Jul- 
Dec67; 4th Mar ComdCs, Jul-Dec67; 12th Mar ComdCs, Jul- 
Dec67; 2/9 ComdC, Jul67; 2/4 ComdCs, Aug-Oct67; and 3/26 
ComdC, Sept67. All documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Operation Kingfisher 
Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 



derived from: 9th Mar AAR Operation Hickory II; 9th Mar AAR 
Operation Kingfisher; 3d Mar AAR Operation Kingfisher; 1/9 
AAR Operation Kingfisher; 2/9 AAR Operation Kingfisher; 2/3 
AAR Operation Kingfisher; 3/3 AAR Operation Kingfisher; 2/4 
AAR Operation Kingfisher; 3/4 AAR Operation Kingfisher; 3/26 
AAR Operation Kingfisher; and 9th MX Bn ComdC, Jul-Aug67. 

1. Major Walter E. Deese, Comments on draft ms, 9Jul81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

2. Col Robert C. Needham, Comments on draft ms, 27jun81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter 
Needham comments. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Needham comments and Col James Stockman, Comments on 
draft ms, 27Jun81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, 
D.C). 

6. 9th MT Bn ComdCs, Jul- Aug67. 

7. Col Julian G. Bass, Jr., Comments on draft ms, 28May81, 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

8. LtCol Horace A. Bruce, Comments on draft ms, I4jul81, (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

9. LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Wasington, D.C), hereafter 
Metzger comments. 

10. Col Lee R. Bendell, Comments on draft ms, 25May81, (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

11. Ibid. 

12. 3/26 ComdC, Sep67. 

13. Col James W. Hammond, Jr., Comments on draft ms, 
18May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), 
hereafter Hammond comments. 

14. Col Richard B. Smith, Comments on draft ms, 21May81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter 
Smith comments. 

15. Hammond comments. 

16. Metzger comments. 

17. Hammond comments. 

18. Ibid. 

19. LtCol James E. Murphy, Comments on draft ms, 6Aug81, 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter 
Murphy comments. 

20. Ibid. 

21. 9th Mar AA, Operation Kingfisher (2/4) 

22. Hammond comments. 

23. Needham comments. 

24. Col John C Studt, Comments on draft ms, 9jul81 (Vietnam 
Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Studt com- 
ments. 

25. Ibid. 

26. Ibid. 

27. Ibid. 

28. Murphy comments. 

29. Studt comments. 

30. Ibid. 

31. Ibid. 

32. Ibid. 

33. Ibid. 

34. Ibid. 

35. 2/4 AAR, Operation Kingfisher. 



NOTES 



267 



36. Hammond comments. 

Medina /Bastion Hill /Lam Son 138 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Mar AAR Operation Medina; 1/1 AAR Opera- 
tion Medina; 2/1 AAR Operation Medina; 1/3 AAR Operation 
Medina/ Bastion Hill. 

Adjustments Within the 3d Marine Division 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 3d Mar AAR Operation Lancaster; 9th Mar AAR 
Operation Kentucky; 26th Mar Operation Scotland; 1st Am- 
TracBn AAR Operation Napoleon. 

37. Col Edwin S. Schick, Jr., Comments on draft ms, llJunSl 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

38. Col William L. Dick, Comments on draft ms, 14May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, DC.) 

39. Col James R. Stockman, Comments on draft ms, 27Jun81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 



PART V 

Special Efforts 

CHAPTER 11 
THE SPECIAL LANDING FORCE 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: COMUSMACV Comd Hist, 1967; COMUSMACV Monthly 
Evaluation Report, Jan-Dec67; FMFPac "U.S. Marine Forces, Viet- 
nam," monthly summaries, Jan-Dec67; III MAF ComdCs, Jan- 
Dec67; 1st MAW ComdCs, Jan-DEc67; LtCol Ralph F. Moody 
and Mr. Benis M. Frank, "The Special Landing Force" (ms, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C, 1972). Unless otherwise noted all 
documentary material cited is located in the Marine Corps 
Historical Center, Washington, D.C. 

Expedient or Doctrine 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: III MAF ComdCs, Aug66-Feb67; 1st MAW Com- 
dCs, Jan-Dec67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the Marine Corps Historical Center, 
Washington, D.C. 

1. Col James R. Stockman, Comments on draft ms, 27jun81 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, DC.) 

2. LtGen Louis Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) hereafter 
Metzger comments. 

Operation Deckhouse V 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
dervied from: IstBn, 9th Marines ComdC, Jan67; HMM-362 
ComdC, Jan67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material 
cited is located in the Marine Corps Historical Center, 
Washington, D.C 



3. Capt John D. Westervelt, USN, Comments on draft ms, 
9Jun81 (Vietnam Comments file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 
hereafter Westervelt comments. 

4. Ibid. 

5. LtGen John R. Chaisson, intvw by Hist Div, HQMC, 3Apr72 
(Oral Hist Coll, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

Deckhouse VI /Desoto 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 4th Mar ComdCs, Feb-Mar67; HMM-363 
ComdCs, Feb-Mar67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

6. Westervelt comments. 

7. Metzger comments. 

8. Westervelt comments. 

Beacon Hill I 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: IstBn, 4th Mar ComdCs, Mar-Apr67; HMM-363 
ComdCs, Mar-Apr67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

9. VAdm Edwin B. Hooper, USN, Comments on draft ms, 
24May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, DC.) 

Beacon Star 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, Apr-May67; HMM-164 
ComdCs, Apr-May67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Beaver Cage /Union I 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, Apr-May67; HMM-263 
ComdCs, Apr-May67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C 

Beau Charger/ Belt Tight /Hickory /Prairie IV /Cimarron 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, May-Jun67; 2d Bn, 3d 
Mar ComdCs, May-Jun67; HMM-164 ComdCs, May-Jun67; 
HMM-263 ComdCs, May-Jun67. Unless otherwise noted all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
DC. 

10. LtCol Edward K. Kirby, Comments on draft ms of Moody, et 
al, "Marines in Vietnam," 18Jan70 (Vietnam Comment file, 
MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



Day On, Stay On 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; 2d Bn, 3d Mar 
ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; HMM-164 ComdCs, Jan-Jun67; HMM-263 
ComdCs, Jan-Jun67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 



268 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Beat Bite / Colgate / Choctaw/ Maryland 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jun67; HMM-263 ComdC, 
Jun67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

11. 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jun67. 

Beacon Torch /Calhoun 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, Jun-Jul67; HMM-164 
ComdCs, Jun-Jul67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Bear Claw /Buffalo /Hickory II 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jul67; HMM-263 ComdC, 
Jul67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

12. Col John A. Conway, Comments on draft ms, 8jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

Beaver Track /Buffalo /Hickory II 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jul67; HMM-164 ComdC, 
Jul67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Bear Chain/ Fremont 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jul67; HMM-164, ComdC, 
Jul67; HMM-265 ComdC, Jul67. Unless otherwise noted, all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
D.C. 

Beacon Guide 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Jul67; HMM-263 ComdC, 
Jul67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Kangaroo Kick /Fremont 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Aug67; HMM-265 Com- 
dC, Aug67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material 
cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

13. 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Aug67. 

Beacon Gate/ Cochise 



Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Aug67; HMM-263 Com- 
dC, Aug67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material 
cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 



Belt Drive /Liberty 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Aug-Sep67; HMM-262 
ComdC, Aug-Sep67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

14. 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Sep67. 

A Change In Scenario — The 46s are Grounded 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: III MAP ComdC, Aug67; 1st MAW ComdC, 
Aug67; MAG-16 ComdC, Aug67; HMM-262 ComdC, Aug- 
Dec67; HMM-163 ComdC, Aug67; HMM-463 ComdC, Aug67. 
Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located 
in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Beacon Point/ Fremont/ Ballistic Charge /Shelbyville 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Sep67; HMM-362 ComdC, 
Sep67; 4th Mar ComdC, Sep67; 1st Mar ComdC, Sep67, 2d Bn, 
1st Mar ComdC, Sep67; 3d Bn, 5th Mar ComdC, Sep67. Unless 
otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Fortress Sentry /Kingfisher 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 9th Mar ComdCs, Sep-Oct67; 2d Bn, 3d Mar Com- 
dCs, Sep-Oct67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Bastion Hill /Medina /Liberty II /Fremont 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st Mar ComdC, Oct67; 4th Mar ComdC, Oct67; 
1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Oct67. Unless otherwise noted all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
D.C. 

Formation Leader/ Liberty II /Knox 

Unless otherwise noted additional material for this section is 
derived from: 3d MarDiv ComdCs, Oct-Nov67; 7th Mar ComdCs, 
Oct-Nov67; 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdCs, Oct-Nov67; 2d Bn, 26th 
Mar ComdCs, Oct-Nov67. Unless otherwise noted, all documen- 
tary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Granite/Kentucky II and III 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 4th Mar ComdCs, Oct-Nov67; 9th Mar ComdC, 
Oct-Nov67; 1st Bn, 4th Mar ComdCs, Oct-Nov67; HMM-361 
ComdCs, Oct-Nov67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

15. 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Nov67. 

Badger Hunt /Foster 

Unless otherwise noted, additional matenal for this section is 
derived from: 5th Mar ComdC, Nov67; 7th Mar ComdC, Nov67; 
3d Bn, 7th Mar ComdC, Nov67; 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Nov67; 
HMM-262 ComdC, Nov67. Unless otherwise noted, all documen- 
tary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 



NOTES 



269 



Fortress Ridge 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 2d Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Nov-Dec67; 3d Bn, 1st Mar 
ComdCs, Dec67-Jan68; HMM-262 ComdCs, Dec67-Jan68. 
Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located 
in the MCHC, Washmgton, DC. 

16. Col Max McQuown, Comments on draft ms, 20May81 (Com- 
ments files, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) hereafter McQuown 
comments. 

17. Ibid. 

Badger Tooth 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 3d Bn, 1st Mar ComdCs, Dec67-Jan68; HMM-262 
ComdCs, Dec67-Jan68. 

18. McQuown comments. 

19. Ibid. 

20. Ibid. 

Ballistic Arch /Kentucky V/ Osceola 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 9th Mar ComdCs, Nov67-Jan68; 1st Bn, 3d Mar 
ComdCs, Nov67-Jan68; 2d Bn, 4th Mar, ComdC, Dec67. Unless 
otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washmgton, D.C. 

21. 1st Bn, 3d Mar ComdC, Nov67. 

CHAPTER 12 



Corps Civic Action Efforts in Vietnam, March 1965 - March 1966, 
(Washington D.C: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Head- 
quarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1968); Captain William D. Parker, 
USMCR, U.S. Marine Corps Civil Affairs in I Corps Republic of 
South Vietnam, April 1966 to Apnl 1967, (Washington D.C: 
Historical Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1970). 
Documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

Marine Grass-Roots-Level Participation 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: Captain William D. Parker, USMCR, U.S. Marine 
Corps Civil Affairs in 1 Corps Republic of South Vietnam, Apnl 
1966 to Apnl 1967, (Washington D.C: Historical Division, 
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps). Documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 
3. Ill MAF ComdC, February 1967. 

6. V. Keith Fleming, Jr., personal recollection, 9Nov82. 

7. Col Max McQuown, Comments on draft ms, 20May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Mc- 
Quown Comments. 

8. IstLt Robert E. Mattingly, intvw by 3d MarDiv, dtd 230ct67 
(No. 1602, Oral Hist Collection, MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

9. A03E-cem, "Personal Response Project," June 1968. 

10. Col Donald L. Evans intvw by HistDiv, HQMC, dtd 15Feb72, 
(Vietnam Comment File, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

11. McQuown comments. 

Reporting and Evaluation 



PACIFICATION 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, "U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam Mar65- 
Sep67, Historical Summary," vols. 1 and II; FMFPac Operations of 
U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jan-Dec67; 111 
MAF ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 1st MarDiv ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 1st 
MAW ComdCs, Jan-Dec67. Documentaty material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C 

The Problem Defined 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material in this section is 
derived from 111 MAF ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; and 1st MAW Com- 
dCs, Jan-Dec67. Documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C 

1. LtCol D. L. Evans, "USMC Civil Affairs in Vietnam: A 
Philosophical History," Manne Corps Gazette, v. 52, no. 3 (Mar 
1968, p. 22. 

2. Col James L. Black, Comments on draft ms, 23May81, (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C), hereafter Black 
Comments. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid. 

County fair 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: Captain Russel H. Stolfi, USMCR, U.S. Marine 



Unless otherwise noted, additional material tor this section is 
derived from: Captain William D. Parker, USMCR, U.S. Marine 
Corps Civil Affairs in I Corps Republic of South Vietnam, Apnl 
1966 to Apnl 1967, (Washington D.C: Historical Division, 
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps). Documentary material cited is 
located in the Marine Corps Historical Center, Washington, D.C. 

12. FMFPac, Hist Sum, p. 5-36. 

13. Black comments. 



PART VI 

Support and Conclusion 



CHAPTER 13 
SUPPORTING ARMS 



Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam, Mar65- 
Sep67, Historical Summary, vols. I and II; FMFPac Operations of 
U.S. Marine Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jan-Dec67; III 
MAF ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 1st MAW ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; LtCol 
Ralph F. Moody et al, Ms, "U.S. Marines in Vietnam," 
Hist&MusDiv, HQMC, Part VII. Unless otherwise noted all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
DC. 



270 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Marine Air Operations 

Unless otherwise noted, additional matetial in this section is 
detived ftom LtGen Keith B. McCutcheon, "Matine Aviation in 
Vietnam, 1962-1970," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, 
May71, p. 122-135, hereafter McCutcheon "Marine Aviation in 
Vietnam," and Gen William W. Momyer Air Power in Three 
Wars (GPO, Washington, D.C.: 1978), hereafter Momyer, Air 
Power. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. Col Kenneth T. Dykes, Comments on draft ms, 23Jul81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

2. BGen EdwatdJ. Doyle, Comments on draft ms, l4Jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



derived from: 11th Mar ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 12th Mar ComdCs, 
Jan-Dec67. Unless otherwise noted all documentary matetial cited 
is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

17. Col Etnest W. Payne, Comments on diaft ms, 4Jun81, (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) heteafter Payne 
comments. 

18. Col Edwin S. Schick, Jr., Comments on dtaft ms, lljun81, 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) hereafter 
Schick comments. 

19. Schick comments and Col Clayton V. Hendricks, Comments 
on draft ms, 31May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, 
Washmgton, D.C.) 

20. Payne Comments. 



Fixed- Wing Operations 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: MAG-11 ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; MAG-12 ComdCs, 
Jan-Dec67; MAG-13 ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; McCutcheon, "Marine 
Aviation in Vietnam." Unless otherwise noted, all documentary 
material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

3. Colonel John M. Verdi, Comments on draft ms, 4Jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) hereafter Verdi 
comments. 

4. Ibid. 
3. Ibid. 

6. Ibid. 

7. Ibid. 

8. Verdi comments and Col Edgat J. Love, Comments on draft 
ms, 30May81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, 
D.C.) hereafter Love Comments. 

9. Momyer, Air Power, p. 199 and LtCol Earl E. Jacobson, Jr., 
Comments on draft ms, 8Jun81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C.) hereaftet Jacobson comments. 

10. Jacobson comments. 

11. Ibid. 

12. Love comments. 

13. LtGen Louis B. Robertshaw, Comments on draft ms, 
22May81, (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

14. Love comments. 

Helicopter Operations 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: MAG-16 ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; MAG-36 ComdCs, 
Jan-Dec67; MajGen Keith B. McCutcheon, USMC. "Air Support 
for III MAP," Marine Corps Gazette, v.31, no. 8 (Aug 1967), pp. 
19-23. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

15. Cdr F.O. McClendon,Jr., MSC, USN. "Doctors and Dentists, 
Nurses and Corpsmen in Vietnam," Naval Review 1970, An- 
napolis; U.S. Naval Institute, 1970, p. 283. 

16. LtCol William R. Fails, Ms, "Development of Marine Corps 
Helicopters, 1962-1972," Chaptet 6. 

Artillery 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 



CHAPTER 14 
LOGISTICS 

Unless otherwise noted, material in this chapter is derived 
from: FMFPac, U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Vietnam, Mar65- 
Sep67, Historical Summary, Vols I and II; FMFPac, Operations of 
U.S. Matine Forces, Vietnam, monthly summaries, Jan-Dec67; III 
MAF ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 1st MarDiv ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 3d 
MarDiv ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; 1st MAW ComdCs, Jan-Dec67. 
Unless otherwise noted, all cited material is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

Upgrading the Logistics System 

Unless otherise noted, additional matetial in this section is 
derived from: FLC ComdCs, Jan-Dec67; Col G. C. Axtell, intvw 
by FMFPac, 50ct66 (No. 219, Oral History Coll, MCHC); Col W. 
H. Cowper, intvw by FLC, 29Jan67 (No. 377, Oral Hist Coll, 
MCHC). Unless otherwise noted, all cited material is located in 
the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. LtGen Louis M. Metzger, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981), 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C, hereafter 
Metzger comments. 

2. FMFPac Hist Summ, pp. 6-8. 

3. Metzger comments. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Ibid. 

7. Col James C. Short, Comments on draft ms, 29May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

8. Metzget comments. 

Navy Support 

Unless otherwise noted, additional matetial for this section is 
derived from: Cdr W. D. Middleton, "Seabees in Vietnam," U.S. 
Naval Institute Proceedings, Aug67, v. 93, No. 8, pp. 54-64; US 
NavSupAct Da Nang, Naval Support in I Corps 1968. Unless 
other noted, all material cited is located in MCHC, Washington, 
DC. 

9. Capt John T. Vincent, (MC), USN, Comments on draft ms, 
7jul81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

10. Col Robert C. Rice, Comments on draft ms, 10Jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 






NOTES 



271 



Marine Corps Engineers 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: 1st, 3d, 7th, 9th, 11th Eng Bns ComdCs, Jan- 
Dec67. Unless otherwise noted, all documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

11. Col James L. Black, Comments on draft ms, 23May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

12. Col Ross L. Mulford, Comments on draft ms, ljun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

13. Col Richard D. Taber, Comments on draft ms, 7jun81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

14. LtCol Willard N. Christopher, Comments on draft ms, 
31jul81 (Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 

CHAPTER 15 
OTHER MARINE ACTIVITIES 

Unless otherwise noted, material for this chapter is derived 
from: HQMC Comd Status of Forces rept, Jan-Dec67; Adm U. S. 
Grant Shatp, USN, and Gen William C. Westmoreland, USA, 
Report on the War in Vietnam (Washington, GPO, 1968). All 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
D.C. 

Marines with MACV 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from MACV Strength Reports, 1967; BGen John R. 
Chaisson debrief, HQMC, lAug67 (No. 6172, Oral Hist Coll 
HQMC). All documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

1. LtGen John R. Chaisson, Transcript of Remarks ar a Basic 
School Mess Night, 17Nov70 (Oral Hist Coll, MCHC, 
Washington, D.C). 

The Embassy Guard 

Material in this section is derived from: HQMC Comd Center 
Status of Forces rept, Jan-Dec67; MSG Bn Comd ComdCs, Feb- 
Dec67; MACV Strength Reports, 1967; Maj Philip E. Tucker int- 
vw by HistBr, Hist&MusDiv, HQMC, 6Jun75 (No. 6019, Oral 
Hist Coll, MCHC, Washington, D.C). Unless noted otherwise all 
documentary material cited is located in the MCHC, Washington, 
D.C. 

2. LtCol Philip E. Tucker, Comments on draft ms, n.d. (1981) 
(Vietnam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

I Corps Advisors 

Unless otherwise noted, additional material for this section is 
derived from: HQMC Comd Cntr Status of Forces rept, Jan- 
Dec67; SMA, AA rpts, Jan-Dec67; MajGen W. B. Fulton, USA, 
Vietnam Studies, Rivenne Operations, 1966-1969 (Washington, 
GPO, 1973); VAdm E. B. Hooper, USN (Ret.), Mobility, Sup- 
port, Endurance , (Washington, GPO, 1972). Unless otherwise 
noted, all documentary material is located in the MCHC, 
Washington, D.C. 

3. LtCol James R. Davis, Comments on draft ms, 2lMay81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

4. Col Nels E. Anderson, Comments on draft ms, 17May81 (Viet- 
nam Comment file, MCHC, Washington, D.C.) 



5. SMA AA Rept, Song Thanh/Deckhouse V, dtd lMar67, End 
(10). 

6. SMA AA Rept, RSSZ Ops (unnamed), dtd 28Jul67. 

7. Ibid. 

8. SMA AA Rept, Operation Paddington, dtd 28Nov67. 

9. SMA AA Rept, Operation Coronado IX, dtd 12Feb68. 

CHAPTER 16 
THE SITUATION AT THE END OF THE YEAR 

Unless otherwise noted, the material in this chapter is derived 
from FMFPac ComdC, Jul-Dec67; III MAF ComdC, Dec67; Gen 
William C Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports. (Garden City: 
Doubleday, 1976), hereafter Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports; 
and Peter Braestrup, Big Story, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1977), 
hereafter Braestrup, Big Story. All documentary material cited is 
located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

Operational Aspects 

Additional material in this section is derived from 1st MarDiv 
ComdC, Dec67; 3d MarDiv ComdC, Dec67; 1st MAW ComdC, 
Dec67; and FLC ComdC, Dec67. All documentary material cited 
is located in the MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

1. Douglas Pike, conference remarks, quoted in A Conference 
Report: Some Lessons and Non-Lessons of Vietnam Ten Years 
After the Paris Peace Accords. (Washington: Woodrow Wilson 
Center for Scholars, 1983). 

2. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports, p. 204; Gen William C 
Westmoreland, Oral History Interview, 4Apf83 (Oral History Col- 
lection, MCHC, Washington, D.C). 

3. BGen Edwin H. Simmons, "Marine Corps Operations in Viet- 
nam, 1967," Naval Review, 1969; FMFPac ComdC, Jul-Dec67; 
and III MAF ComdC, Dec67. 

Personi-.el and Logistics 

Additional material for this section is derived from III MAF 
ComdC, Dec67. All documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

The Outlook for Victory 

Additional material for this section is derived from III MAF 
ComdC Dec67: 1st MarDiv ComdC, Dec67; and 3d MarDiv 
ComdC, Dec67. All documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

5. Quoted in Braestrup, Big Story, p. 53 and 39. 

Enemy Dispositions 

Additional material for this section is derived from III MAF 
ComdC, Dec67; 1st MarDiv ComdC, Dec67; and 3d MarDiv 
ComdC, Dec67. All documentary material cited is located in the 
MCHC, Washington, D.C. 

6. Gen William C Westmoreland, quoted in Braestrup, Big 
Story, Vol. 1, p. 61. 

7. LtGen Keith B. McCutcheon, "Marine Aviation in Vietnam, 
1962-1970," Naval Review. 1969 . 

8. Quoted in Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports, p. 239. 



PENTAGON LIBRARY 
^^HINGTON, DC 



Appendix A 

Marine Command and Staff List 
January-December 1967 



MARINE COMMAND AND STAFF LIST, 

for ni MARINE AMPHIBIOUS FORCE 

1 January - 31 December 1967* 

*Unless otherwise indicated, dates refer to the period when a 
unit was in Vietnam. Only permanent Marine organization of 
battalion I squadron-size or larger are listed; exceptions are id 
Marine Division (Fwd), Task Force X-Ray, and the Force Logistic 
Command and its components. The following listing reflects ad- 
ministrative rather than operational organization. (For a complete 
listing of locations and strength of Marine units in the western 
Pacific, see Appendix F.) 



Col Joseph F. Holzbauer 
Col John E. Hays 
LtCol James L. Black, Jr. 



13-17Sep67 
18Sep-3lOct67 
lNov-3lDec67 



III MAF Headquarters Ijan- 

CGLtGen Lewis W.Walt 

LtGen Robert E. Cushman, Jr. 
DepCG MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr. 

MajGen Roben E. Cushman, Jr. 

MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr. 

MajGen Raymond L. Murray 
C/S BGen Hugh M. Elwood 

BGen Robert C. Owens, Jr. 

BGen Earl E. Anderson 
G-1 Col John L. Mahon 

Col James H. Berge, Jr. 

Col Poul F. Pedersen 
G-2 Col Roy H. Thompson 

Col Benjamin S. Read 

Col Kenneth J. Houghton 
G-3 Col DrewJ. Barrett, Jr. 

Col Fred E. Haynes, Jr. 

Col Thomas L. Randall 
G-4 Col Joseph F. Quilty, Jr. 

ColRexO.Dillow 
G-5 Col Eric S. Holmgrain 

Coljohn T.Hill 

Col George O . Ross 

Col Robert F. Warren 

Col George O. Ross 

Col James A. Gallo, Jr. 

LtCol James L. Black, Jr. 



3lDec67 

lJan-31May67 

lJun-31Dec67 

lJan-3lMar67 

lApr-31May67 

ljun-170ct67 

180ct-3lDec67 

lJan-31Mar67 

lApr-20Dec67 

2lDec-3lDec67 

ljan-3jun67 

4Jun-13Jul67 

l6Jul-31Dec67 

lJan-13Feb67 

l4Feb-9Jul67 

10Jul-31Dec67 

ljan-2jul67 

3Jul-13Nov67 

l4Nov-3lDec67 

ljan-2jun67 

3Jun-3lDec67 

ljan-31jan67 

lFeb-26Apr67 

27Apr-17May67 

18-3lMay67 

ljun-ljul67 

2Jul-5Sep67 

6-l4Sep67 



1st Marine Division Headquarters lJan-3lDec67 

CG MajGen Herman Nickerson, Jr. lJan-31May67 

MajGen DonnJ. Robertson* lJun-31Dec67 

ADC BGen William A. Stiles lJan-23Mar67 

BGen Foster C. LaHue* 24Mar-31Dec67 
*BGen LaHue was Acting 1st Marine Division Commander 
during the period 27 Oct-28Nov67. 

C/S Col SidneyJ. Altman lJan-31May67 

Col Edward L. Bale, Jr. l-12Jun67 

Col HenryJ. Woessner, II 13Jun-31Dec67 

G-1 Col Charles C. Crossfield, II l-18Jan67 

Col Arnold L. Emils 19Jan-10May67 

Col William R. Earney llMay-3lDec67 

G-2 ColJohnJ. O'Donnell 1-I4jan67 

Col Stanley Davis 15Jan-30Jun67 

LtCol Emmett B. Sigmon, Jr. l-7jul67 

Col James C. Short 8-llJul67 

LtCol Emmett B. Sigmon, Jr. 12Jul-30Sep67 

Col Russell E . Corey 1 Oct- 3 1 Dec67 

G-3 Col Herman Poggemeyer.Jr. lJan-31May67 

Col Herbert E. Ing, Jr. Ijun-8jul67 

Col Robert D.Bohn 9-llJul67 

Col James C. Short 12Jul-31Dec67 

G-4 Col Edward L. Bale, Jr. Ijan-27jun67 

LtCol Earl K. Vickers, Jr. 28Jun-31Dec67 

G-5 Col Walter Moore lJan-2Feb67 

Col Donald L. Mallory 3Feb-3 lMay67 

LtCol Richard F. Peterson IJun- 1 ljul67 

Col EmilJ. Radics 12Jul-30Sep67 

LtCol Richard F. Peterson l-40ct67 

Col Herbert L. Beckington 30ct-3lDec67 
Headquarters Battalion 

CO Col Warren A. Leitner ljan-31jul67 

Col Joseph F. Donahoe,Jr. lAug-3lDec67 



Task Force X-Ray lJan-26Apr67' 

*TF X-Ray activated at Chu Lai on 10 October 1966 and 

273 



274 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



operated from there until 26 April 1961 , at which time it 
deactivated when Task Force Oregon assumed its mission. 



CO BGen William A. Stiles 

BGen Foster C. LaHue 
C/S Col Fred E. Haynes, Jr. 
G- 1 LtCol Roland L. McDaniel 

MajJohnC. Hergert.Jr. 
G-2 Maj Glenn K. Maxwell 

Maj Daniel Z. Boyd 
G-3 LtCol Edward J. Bronars 

LtCol Robert E. Hunter, Jr. 
G-4 LtCol Louis A. Bonin 

LtCol Ba^ile Lubka 
G-5 Maj Joseph T. Smith 

1st Marines 
CO Col Donald L. Mallory 
ColEmilJ. Radics 
Col Herbert E. Ing, Jr. 

1st Battalion, 1st Marines 

CO LtCol Van D.Bell, Jr. 

LtCol George E. Petro 

LtCol Albert F. Belbusti 

LtCol MarcusJ. Gravel 

2d Battalion, 1st Marines 
CO LtCol Haig Donabedian 

LtCol Marvin M. Hewlett 

LtCol Archie Van Winkle 

LtCol Evan L. Parker, Jr. 



lJan-24Mar67 

25Mar-26Apr67 

lJan-26Apr67 

lJan-3Mar67 

4Mar-26Apr67 

l-4Jan67 

5Jan-26Apr67 

lJan-2Feb67 

3Feb-26Apr67 

lJan-3Mar67 

4Mar-26Apr67 

lJan-26Apr67 



ljan-28jan67 
29Jan-llJul67 
12Jul-3lDec67 



ljan-4jun67 

5Jun-27Aug67 

28Aug-16Nov67 

17Nov-31Dec67 

l-31Jan67 

lFeb-5Aug67 

6Aug-l4Nov67 

15Nov-3lDec67 



3d Battalion, 1st Marines* 

*The id Battalion, 1st Marines became part ofSLF BRA VO on 
lDec67. 



CO LtCol Hillmer E, DeAdey 
LtCol Robert C. Rice 
LtCol Max McQuown 

5th Marines 

CO Col Fred E. Haynes, Jr. 

Col KennethJ. Houghton 

Col Stanley Davis 

Col Robert D. Bohn 

1st Battalion, 5th Marines 
CO LtCol Peter L. Hilganner 

LtCol Oliver W. Vandenberg 



lJan-26Apr67 
27Apr-28Aug67 
29Aug-30Nov67 



lJan-27Feb67 
28Feb-30Jun67 

Ijul-I60ct67 
170ct-3lDec67 

lJan-19Sep67 
20Sep-3lDec67 



2d Battalion, 5th Marines 

CO LtCol William C. Airhean l-31jan67 

LtCol Mallett C.Jackson, Jr. lFeb-18Jul67 

LtCol George C. McNaughton 19Jul-31Dec67 



3d Battalion, 5th Marines 

CO LtCol Dean E. Esslinger lJan-27May67 

Col Charles B.Webster 28May-6Sep67 

Col William K. Rockey 7Sep-3lDec67 

7th Marines 

CO Col Lawrence F. Snoddy, Jr.* l-20Jan67 
* Surname changed to Snowden 19 Apr! 2 

Col Charles C. Crossfield, II 2 lJan-l4Aug67 

LtCol Russell E.Johnson 15-2lAug67 

Col Ross R. Miner 22Aug-31Dec67 
1st Battalion, 7th Marines 

CO LtCol Basile Lubka lJan-27Feb67 

LtCol Jack D. Rowley 28Feb-l4Sep67 

LtCol WilliamJ. Davis 13Sep-31Dec67 
2d Battalion, 7th Marines 

CO LtCol Warren P. Kitterman Ijan- 16 Aug67 

LtCol John R. Love 17Aug-3lDec67 
3d Battalion, 7th Marines 

CO LtCol RaymofidJ. OTeary lJan-lFeb67 

LtCol Edward J. Bronars 2Feb-4Apr67 

LtCol John D. Counselman 5Apr-180ct67 

LtCol Roger H. Barnard 190ct-31Dec67 

11th Marines 

CO Col Glenn E. Norris ljan-28jun67 

LtCol Clayton V. Hendricks 29Jun-18Jul67 

Col Ernest W. Payne 19Jul-27Dec67 

LtCol Clayton V. Hendricks 28-3lDec67 

1st Battalion, 11th Marines 

CO LtCol Mark P. Fennessy lJan-18May67 

MajJosephJ. Marron 19May-31Jul67 

LtCol David A. Rapp lAug-60ct67 

LtCol Robert C. V. Hughes 70ct-3lDec67 

2d Battalion, 11th Marines 

CO Maj Ivil L. Carver lJan-2lFeb67 

Majjoseph H. Marron 22Feb-llMay67 

LtCol Robert E. Hunter, Jr. 12May-28Sep67 

LtCol David A. Clark 29Sep-3lDec67 

3d Battalion, 11th Marines 

CO LtCol Alexander S. Ruggiero ljan-28jun67 

LtCol George T. Balzer 29Jun-31Dec67 
4th Battalion, 11th Marines 

CO LtCol George R. Lamb Ijan- lFeb67 

LtCol Joseph M. Laney, Jr. 2Feb-18Apr67 

LtCol Gordon M . B . Livingston 1 9 Apr- 3 ljul67 

Maj John S. Hollingshead lAug-3lDec67 

1st Reconnaissance Battalion 

CO LtCol Donald N. McKeon lJan-20May67 

Maj Bill G. Lowrey 2lMay-10Jul67 

LtCol Browman C. Stinemetz llJul-31Dec67 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



275 



1st Antitank Battalion* 

*The 1st Antitank Battalion deactivated on 2lDec67. 

CO MajJohnJ. Keefe ljan-4jun67 

Maj Pat S. Galligan 5jun-20Jul67 

LtCol Pierre D. Reissner 21Jul-2lDec67 

1st Tank Battalion 

CO Maj John W. Clayborne lJan-lFeb67 

LtCol Richard M. Taylor 2Feb- 10Nov67 

LtCol Vincent J. Gentile llNov-3lDec67 



11th Motor Transport Battalion 

CO Maj Lee V. Barkley Ijan- 1 lFeb67 

Maj Robert C. Tashjian 12Feb-6Jul67 

LtCol Joseph B. Brown, Jr. 7Jul-31Dec67 

1st Field Artillery Group 

CO LtCol Joe B . Stribling ijan- 1 2Mar67 

LtCol Robert B. Metcalfe 4May-17Nov67 

LtCol Spencer F. Thomas 18Nov-31Dec67 



1st Motor Transport Battalion 

CO Maj Jim T. Elkins lJan-31Mar67 

Maj Kenneth H. Reagan lApr-18Jun67 

LtCol Kenneth M. Buss 19Jun-7Nov67 

Maj Charles F. Cresswell 8Nov-3lDec67 

1st Engineer Battalion 

CO LtCol Charles O. Newton lJan-24May67 

MajJamesM. Mackenzie 23May-lOct67 

LtCol Logan Cassedy 20ct-3 lDec67 



7th Engineer Battalion 
CO LtCol Frank W. Harris, 111 
LtCol Ray Funderburk 



S>th Engineer Battalion 

CO LtCol Richard W. Crispen 
LtCol George A. Babe 
Maj Edward W. Lifset 
LtCol Horacio E. Perea 



ljan-29jul67 
30jul-3lDec67 



lJan-6Feb67 

7Feb-6Aug67 

7-30Aug67 

3lAug-3lDec67 



1st Shore Party Battalion 

CO LtCol Edward H. Jones IJan- 17Sep67 

Maj Jack E. Townsend 18-28Sep67 

LtCol Nicholas Kavakich 29Sep-31Dec67 

3d Amphibian Tractor Battalion 

CO Maj Jack D. Rowley lJan-26Feb67 

Maj Ftederick N. Van Sant 27Feb-5Jim67 

Maj James E. Swab 6-26Jun67 

LtCol Robert L. Shuford 27jun-3lDec67 



1st Medical Battalion 

CO Cdr Robert H, Mitchell (MC) USN l-31jan67 

CdrJohnC. Robms(MC)USN lFeb-12Apr67 

Cdr Paul D. Cooper, Jr. (MC)USN 13Apr-3lAug67 

Cdr Clmton H. Lowery (MC) USN lSSep-3lDec67 

1st Military Police Battalion 

CO LtCol Paul J. Stavridis lJan-21May67 

LtCol Twyman R. Hill 22May-3lDec67 

7th Motor Transport Battalion 

CO Maj Sydney H . Batchelder , Jr IJan- 1 0Sep67 

Maj Lance D . Thomas 1 1 Sep- 3 lDec67 

7th Communication Battalion 

CO LtCol William M . Clelland IJan- 1 8Nov67 

LtCol Harry O. Cowing, Jr. 19Nov-3lDec67 



3d Marine Division Headquarters 

CG MajGen Wood B. Kyle IJan- 17Mar67 

Maj Gen Bruno A . Hochmuth 1 8Mar- 1 4Nov6 7 

BGen Louis Metzger 15-27Nov67 

MajGen Rathvon M. Tompkins 28Nov-3 lDec67 

ADC BGen Lowell E. English l-6Jan67 

BGen Michael P . Ryan 7jan- 1 9May67 

BGen Louis Metzger 20May- l4Nov67 

BGen Louis Metzger 28Nov-3lDec67 

C/S Col John B. Sweeney lJan-2Mar67 

Col Alexander D. Cereghino 3Mar-31Jul67 

Col Walter H. Cuenin lAug-3lDec67 

G-1 Col Robert M.Jenkins lJan-20Mar67 

LtCol Charles S. Kirchmann 2lMar-l4Sep67 

LtColJamesW. Marsh 15Sep-3lDec67 

G-2 LtCol Jack L. Miles lJan-9Feb67 

LtCol Lemuel C. Shepherd, III 10Feb-lJun67 

Col Philip A. Davis 2Jun-22Sep67 

Col Edward J. Miller 23Sep-3lDec67 

G- 3 Col Edward E . Hammerbeck IJan- 1 7May67 

LtCol Harvey E. Spielman 18-27May67 

Col Edward E. Hammerbeck 28May- 1 5Jun67 

Col CliffordJ, Robichaud, Jr. 16Jun-10Jul67 

Col Roy H . Thompson 1 IJul- 3 Sep67 

Col James R. Stockman 5Sep-31Dec67 

G-4 Col John F. Mentzer lJan-28May67 

Col Francis I. Fenton, Jr. 29May-3lDec67 

G-5 Col Edward R. McCarthy ljan-31jul67 

Col Milton A. Hull 1 Aug-3 lDec67 



276 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Headquaners Battalion 



CO LtCol Thomas J . Johnston , Jr . 
LtCol Charles R. Figard 
Col James R. Stockman 
Col John P. Lanigan 
Maj Homer L.Welch 
Col George E. Jerue 



lJan-13Mar67 

l4Mar-10Apr67 

llApr-17May67 

18May-3Jul67 

4Jul-23Sep67 

24Sep-3lDec67 



3d Marines 

CO John P. Lanigan lJan-17May67 

Col James R. Stockman 18May-25Aug67 

Col Joseph E. Lo Prete 26Aug-3lDec67 

1st Battalion, 3d Marines' 
*The 1st Battalion, }d Marines joined the SLF on 8Feb67 and 

remained under its control for the rest of the year. 

CO LtCol Peter A . Wickwire lJan-7Feb67 

2d Battalion, 3d Marines* 
^The 2d Battalion, id Marines served as a SLF BLT from 

15Apr67 until 30Nov67. 

CO LtCol Victor Ohanesian lJan-28Feb67 

LtCol Earl R. Delong lMar-12Apr67 

LtCol Henry Englisch l-31Dec67 

3d Battalion, 3d Marines 

CO LtCol Earl R. Delong lJan-2lFeb67 

LtCol Gary Wilder 22Feb-30jun67 

LtCol Robert C. Needham lJul-31Dec67 

4th Marines 
CO Col Alexander D. Cereghino lJan-l4Feb67 

Col Roy H. Thompson 15Feb-9Jul67 

Col William L. Dick 10jul-3lDec67 

1st Battalion, 4th Marines* 
*The 1st Battalion, 4th Marines served with the SLF during the 
period lJan-lApr67. 

CO LtCol Theodore J. Willis 2Apr-12May67* 

Maj Rheaford C. Bell 13May-29Jul67 

LtCol Edwin A. Deptula 30Jul-3lDec67 

2d Battalion, 4th Marines* 
*The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines arrived in Vietnam on 6Jan67. 



CO LtCol Arnold E. Bench 

Maj Wells L. Field, 111 

LtCol James W. Hammond, Jr. 

LtCol William Weise 

3d Battalion, 4th Marines 
CO LtCol WilliamJ. Masterpool 

LtCol Wendell N. Vest 

LtCol Lee R.Bendell 



9th Marines 



CO Col Robert M. Richards 
Col Robert M.Jenkins 



6Jan-15Jul67 

16-I8jul67 

19jul-270ct67 

280ct-31Dec67 

lJan-3Mar67 

4Mar-21Jul67 

22Jul-31Dec67 



lJan-20Mar67 
21Mar-17May67 



Col Edward E. Hammerbeck 18-28May67 

LtCol Joseph J. Kelly 29May-3Jun67 

Col George E. Jerue 4Jun-12Sep67 

Col Richard B. Smith 13Sep-31Dec67 

1st Battalion, Shh Marines* 
*The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines served with the SLF during the 

period lJan-4Feb67. 

CO Maj James L. Day 3Feb- 1 7Mar67 

Maj Donald J. Fulham 18Mar-21Jun67 

LtCol Richard J. Schening 22Jun-9Sep67 

Maj Darrell C. Danielson 10-24Sep67 

LtCol John F. Mitchell 25Sep-3lDec67 
2d Battalion, 9th Marines 

CO LtCol John J. Peeler ljan-4jul67 

LtCol William D. Kent 3Jul-12Sep67 

LtCol JohnJ. Peeler 13Sep-280ct67 

LtCol William M. Cryan 290ct-31Dec67 

3d Battalion, 9th Marines 

*The battalion departed for Okinawa on lljan67 and returned 
to RVNon 28Feb67. 
CO LtCol Sherwood A. Brunnenmeyer 



Maj Samuel G. Faulk 
LtCol James S. Wilson 
MajWillardJ. Woodringjr. 
Maj Gorton C. Cook 

12th Marines 

CO Col Benjamin S. Read 

Col William R. Morrison 

Col Edwin S. Schick, Jr. 

1st Battalion, 12th Marines 
CO LtCol Lavern W. Larson 

LtCol Wayne H. Rice 

LtCol Charles H. Opfar 

2d Battalion, 12th Marines 
CO LtCol Willis L. Gore 

LtCol Jack L. Norman 

Maj George C. Harris, Jr. 

LtCol Robert Schueler 

LtCol Ronald P. Dunwell 

3d Battalion, 12th Marines 
CO LtCol Charles J. Kirchmann 

LtCol Jack L. Miles 

LtCol David B. Barker 

Maj Roben W. Green 

4th Battalion, 12th Marines 
CO LtCol David G. Jones 

Maj Louis G. Snyder 

LtCol Joseph K. Gastrock, III 

Maj Rudolph W. Bo Ives 



l-10Jan67 

l-4Mar67 

5-8Mar67 

9Mar-28May67 

29May-8Sep67 

9Sep-31Dec67 



l-22Jan67 
23Jan-20Jul67 
21Jul-3lDec67 

lJan-15Feb67 
l6Feb-6Sep67 
7Sep-31Dec67 

lJan-27Apr67 
28Apr-8Sep67 

9-10Sep67 
llSep-2Dec67 

3-3lDec67 

lJan-28Feb67 

lMar-12Jul67 

13Jul-8Nov67 

9Nov-31Dec67 

lJan-6Apr67 

7Apr-23Jul67 

24Jul-3lOct67 

lNov-31Dec67 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



277 



3d Reconnaissance Battalion 

CO LtCol Gary Wilder IJan- 1 5Feb67 

Maj Charles N. Dezer, III l6Feb-13Apr67 

Maj James R. A. Rehfus l4Apr-2Aug67 

Maj Rheaford C. Bell 3Aug-9Nov67 

LtCol William D. Kent llNov-31Dec67 

3d Antitank Battalion 

CO LtCol Charles R. Casey lJan-29Aug67 

LtCol Gene M. McCain 30Aug-20Nov67 

Maj Roben M.Jordan 2lNov-31Dec67 

3d Tank Banalion 

CO LtCol William R. Corson Ijan- l4Feb67 

LtCol Roben J. Norton 1 3Feb-23Mar67 

Maj Eddis R. Larson 24-26Mar67 

Maj Vemon L. Sylvester 27Mar-28Jun67 

LtCol Duncan D. Chaplin, III 29Jun-3lDec67 

3d Motor Transport Battalion 

CO Maj Richard F. Armsuong lJan-6Sep67 

Maj William O. Day 7Sep-60ct67 

Maj William H. Stewart, Jr. 70ct-3lDec67 



3d Engineer Battalion 

CO Maj Joseph A. Shearman, Jr. 
LtCol Garry M. Pearce, Jr. 
LtCol James H. Reid, Jr. 
LtCol Robert C. McCutchan 
LtColJackW. Perrin 

3d Shore Party Battalion 

CO LtCol Donald E. Marchette 
MajWillardT. Layton,III 
LtCol James W. Quinn 



l-31Jan67 

l-17Feb67 

18Feb-20Oct67 

2lOct-6Nov67 

7Nov-31Dec67 



lJan-9May67 
10May-31Jul67 
lAug-3lDec67 



1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion 

CO LtCol Albert R. Bowman, II IJan- 15Jul67 

Maj Austin C. Rishel l6-23Jul67 

LtCol Edward R. Toner 26Jul-3 lDec67 

3d Medical Battalion 

CO Cdr John T. Vincent (MC) USN lJan-22Aug67 
Cdr Robert A. Brown (MC) USN 23Aug-31Dec67 

9th Motor Transport Battalion 

CO Maj Donald R. Tyer ljan-20jun67 

Maj DavidJ. Maysilles 21Jun-3Sep67 

MajJohnR. Stanley 4Sep-3lDec67 



11th Engineer BattaUon 

CO LtCol Ross L. Mulford IJan- 10Jul67 

LtCol Willard N. Christopher 1 lJul-4Nov67 

LtCol Victor A . Perry 3Nov-3 lDec67 

5th Marine Divbion Units in Vietnam 

26th Marines' 

*The regimental headquarten arrived 26 Apr67. 

CO Col John J . Padley 2 6 Apr- 1 2 Aug67 

Col David E. Lownds 13Aug-3lDec67 
1st Battalion, 26th Marines 

CO LtCol Donald E.Newton ljan-3jul67 

LtCol James B. Wilkinson 4Jul-3lDec67 
2d Battalion, 26th Marines 

CO LtCol John M. Cummings lJan-10Apr67 

LtCol Charles R. Figard llApr-18May67 

LtCol William J. Masterpool 19May-26May67 

LtCol Duncan D. Chaplin, III 27May-3Dec67 

LtCol Francis J. Heath, Jr. 4-3lDec67 
3d Battalion, 26th Marines 

CO LtCol Garland T. Beyerle 1-I7jan67 

LtCol Kurt L. Hoch 18Jan-20Aug67 

LtCol Harry L. Alderman 2lAug-31Dec67 

1st Battalion, 13th Marines* 

*The battalion arrived in Vietnam on 23jul67. 
CO Maj ThomasJ. Coyle 23Jul-9Dec67 

LtCol John A. Hennelly 10-3lDec67 

Headquarters, Force Logistic Command* 

*(Redesignated Headquarters, 1st Force Service Regiment /Force 
Logistic Command on l6Feb67. The staff for both units was the 
same. 



CG BGen James E. Herbold, Jr. 
BGen Harry C. Olson 

C/S Col William H. Cowper 
Col Lyle S. Stephenson 
Col Roy I. Wood, Jr. 

G-lMajJoe B.Noble 
Maj Leonard E. Fuchs 
LtCol Stanley H. Rauh 
Capt Harold B . Jensen , Jr . 
LtCol Minard P. Newton, Jr. 

G-2 LtCol Richard M. Taylor 
LtCol Arthur R. Mooney 
Capt Joseph G. Vindich 
Maj Clarence E. Watson, Jr. 

G-3 Col Lyle S. Stephenson 
LtCol Nolan J. Beat 
Col George K. Reid 



ljan-50ct67 

60ct-3lDec67 

lJan-23May67 

24May-lAug67 

2Aug-3lDec67 

l-2Jan67 

3Jan-4May67 

5May-30jun67 

l-29Jul67 

30Jul-3lDec67 

l-30Jan67 

31Jan-llJun67 

12-28Jun67 

29Jun-31Dec67 

lJan-23May67 

24May-2lDec67 

22-3lDec67 



278 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



G-4 Maj Gilbert C. Hazard 
Maj Richard D. Taber, St. 
Maj William E. Snyder 
LtCol Robert W.Howland 

G-5 Maj Leonard E. Fuchs 
Maj Thomas J. Smyth 



ljan-30jun67 

l-lljul67 

12-19Jul67 

2qjul-31Dec67 

ljan-60ct67 

70ct-31Dec67 



Force Logistic Command Subordinate Units* 

*When the FLC changed its designation to FSR/FLC on 
16Feb67, the orders also redesignated and restructured its subor- 
dinate units. For clarity, the command list shows, first, the in- 
tegral FLC units through 15Feb67. The subsequent listing 
presents the new alignment and,, where applicable, the previous 
unit designation. 

Force Logistic Support Group Alpha 

CO Col Robert R. Weir lJan-6Feb67 

Col George C. Schmidt, Jr. 7Feb-13Feb67 

Force Logistic Support Group Bravo 

CO Col Kermit H. SheUy lJan-13Fcb67 

Force Logistic Support Unit 2 
CO LtCol Rollin F. Van Cantfort Ijan- 1 5Feb67 

Headquarters and Service Battalion, 1st Force Service Regiment* 

*Formed 16Feb67 with the arrival of 1st FSR at Da Nang. 
CO LtCol Kenneth D. Seibert l6Feb-27jul67 

LtCol William F. Koehnlein 28Jul-31Dec67 

Supply Battalion, 1st Force Service Regiment 
(Ex-Force Logistic Support Group Alpha) 
CO Col George C. Schmidt, Jr. l6Feb-2Aug67 

LtColJackO. Arford 3-13Aug67 

Col Julian G. Bass, Jr. l4Aug-31Dec67 

Maintenance Battalion, 1st Force Service Regiment* 
*Established in Vietnam 16Feb67. 
CO LtCol Abie Gordon l6Feb-3 ljul67 

LtColJack M.Hermes lAug-31Dec67 

3d Service Battalion, Force Logistic Support Group Alpha 
(ex- Force Logistic Support Group 2) 
CO LtCol Rollin F. Van Cantfort l6Feb-28Apr67 

Col Stanley D. Low 29Apr-2Sep67 

Col James R.Jones 3Sep-31Dec67 

1st Service Battalion, Force Logistic Supf)ort Group Bravo 
(ex-Force Logistic Support Group Bravo) 
CO Col Kermit H. Shelly l6Feb-l4Mar67 

LtCol Esten C. Carper, Jr. 13-21Mar67 

Col Stanley D. Low 22Mar-27Apr67 

LtCol Esten C. Carper, Jr. 28Apr-24May67 

LtCol Lynn A. Hall 25May-4Aug67 

LtCol RichardJ. Smith 5-30Aug67 

LtCol John H. Maloney 3lAug-31Dec67 

United Attached to Force Logistic Command* 

*The 5th Communications Battalion was the only battalion-size 
unit attached to FLC for the entire year. 



5th Cotiunimications Battalion 

CO Col Phillip K. Leesburg ijan- 1 2 Apr67 

Maj William A. Read 13-20Apr67 

LtCol Arnold G. Ziegler lMay-3Nov67 

LtCol Donald L. Lindermuth 4Nov-3lDec67 

1st Marine Aircraft Wing Headquarters 

CG MajGen Louis B. Robertshaw ljan-2jun67 

Maj Gen Norman J. Anderson 3Jun-3lDec67 

AWC BGen Robert G. Owens, Jr. Ijan- 1 Apr67 

BGen Robert P . Keller 2 Apr- 3 1 Dec67 

C/S Col EdwardJ. Doyle lJan-31Mar67 

Col Herbert H. Long lApr-3Sep67 

Col John S. Payne 4Sep-70ct67 

Col Franklin C. Thomas, Jr. 80ct-3lDec67 

G- 1 Col Dan H . Johnson lJan-4Feb67 

Col Jay W. Hubbard 5Feb-3May67 

LtCol Harry D. Stott 4May-30Aug67 

Col Robert Baird 3lAug-31Dec67 

G-2 Col George H. Dodenhoff ljan-5jul67 

Col Robert D. Limberg 6Jul-3lDec67 

G-3 Col Guy M. Cloud lJan-5Feb67 

Col Douglas D. Petty, Jr. 6Feb-lAug67 

Col Joel E. Bonner, Jr. 2Aug-3lDec67 

G-4 Col Herbert H. Long lJan-3Feb67 

Col Franklin C. Thomas, Jr. 4Feb-6Jun67 

ColJoelE. Bonner, Jr. 7Jun-lAug67 

Col Charles A. Armstrong, Jr. 2Aug-3lDec67 

G-5 LtCol ErnestJ. Berger ljan-9jun67 

LtCol Edward R. Rogal lOJun-3 ljul67* 
*The G-5 Section came under Wing G-4 cognizance on 

lAug67. 

Marine Wing Headquarters Group 1 (MWTHG-1) 

CO Col William L. Atwater lJan-5Apr67 

Col Kenneth T. Dykes 6Apr- l4Aug67 

LtCol Wesley H. Rodenberger 13Aug-170ct67 

Col Tolbert T. Gentry 180ct-31Dec67 



Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron 1 (H&HS-l) 

CO Maj Cad C. Foster lJan-2 lFeb67 

LtCol Stanley A. Herman 22Feb-9Jun67 

Maj Thomas R. Maddock 10Jun-6Aug67 

LtCol Merton R. Ives 7Aug-20Oct67 

LtCol Albert W. Keller 2lOct-3lDec67 

Marine Air Support Squadron 2 (MASS-2) * 

''MASS-2 transferred to MACG-18, effective lSep67. 
CO LtCol Harry Hunter, Jr. Ijan-15jun67 

LtCol Ben C. Rowe l6Jun-8Dec67 

LtCol John M.Johnson, Jr. 9-3lDec67 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



279 



Marine Air Support Squadron 3 (MASS-3)* 
*MASS-3 transferred to MACG-18, effective lSep67. 
CO LtCol Donald L. Fenton lJan-29Mar67 

LtCol Gordon D. McPherson 30Mar-l4Sep67 

LtColHughR. Bumpasjr. 15Sep-31Dec67 

Marine Air Control Squadron 4 (MACS-4) ' 
*MACS-4 arrived in Vietnam from CONUS on 4Jun67 and 

transferred to MACG-18 on lSep67. 

CO LtCol Conrad P. Buschmann 4Jun-20Dec67 

LtCol William A. Cohn 21-3lDec67 

Marine Air Control Squadron 7 (MACS-?)' 
*T/>e squadron returned to CONUS on 13Ju/67. 
CO Maj Thomas K. Burkjr. Ijan-13jul67 

1st Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion (1st LAAM En)' 

*Tie battalion transferred to MACG-18, effective lSep67. 
CO LtCol Menon P. Ives lJan-4Aug67 

LtCol MarshallJ. Treado 5Aug-31Dec67 

2d Light Antiaircraft Missile Battalion (2d LAAM Bn) * 

*The battalion transferred to MACG-18, effective lSep67. 
CO LtCol Thomas 1 . Gunning Ijan- 1 2Jun67 

LtColStanley A. Herman 13Jun-3lDec67 

Marine Wing Communications Squadron 1 (MWCS-1)* 

*The squadron activated on lSep67 with the reorganization of 
MWHG-l. 
CO Maj David H. Tinius lSep-3lDec67 

Marine Wing Facilities Squadron 1 (MWFS-1)* 

*The squadron activated on lSep67 with the reorganization of 
MWT-IG-1. 
COMaj Edward A. Laning lSep-3lDec67 

Marine Wing Support Group 17 (MWSG-17) 

CO Col Orlando S.Tosdal lJan-28Mar67 

Col Victor A. Armstrong 29Mar-30Jun67 

Col John E. Hansen lJul-3lDec67 

Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 17 (H&MS-17) 

CO LtCol John J. Leogue lJan-9Aug67 

LtCol Eugene V. Goldston 10Aug-3lDec67 

Wing Equipment and Repair Squadron 17 (WERS-17) 
CO LtCol Lawrence P. Hart lJan-llApr67 

LtCol John R. Hansford 12Apr-3lDec67 

Marine Air Control Group 18 (MACG-18)' 

*MACG-18 activated at Da Nang on lSep67. For other units 
assigned to MACG-18, see the command list for MASS-2, 



MASS-5. MACS-4, 1st LAAM Bn, and 2d LAAM Bn under 

MWHG-l. 

CO Col Lyle V. Tope lSep-3lDec67 

Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron 18 (H&HS-18)' 

*HScHS-18 activated with the formation of MACG-18 on 
lSep67. 
CO LtCol John M.Johnson, Jr. lSep-5Nov67 

LtCol Paul B . Montague 6Nov- 3 1 Dec6 7 

Marine Aircraft Group 1 1 

CO Col Franklin C. Thomas, Jr. lJan-3Feb67 

Col William F. Guss 4Feb-30jun67 

Col Ardiur O. Schmagel lJul-29Dec67 

Col LeRoy T. Frey 30-3lDec67 

Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 11 (H&MS-ll) 

CO LtCol Raymond A. Cameron lJan-30Apr67 

LtCol Charles E. Dove lMay-31Aug67 

LtCol Earl E.Jacobson lSep-3Nov67 

LtCol Anthony L. Blair 4Nov-3lDec67 

Marine Air Base Squadron 11 (MABS-11) 

CO Maj Guy R. Campo l-23Jan67 

Maj Edgar J. Love 24Jan-30Apr67 

LtColLonnieP. Baites lMay-llJun67 

Maj Stanley D. Cox 12Jun-90ct67 

LtCol John W. Irion, Jr. 130ct-3lDec67 

Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron 1 (VMCJ-1) 
CO LtCol William B. Fleming lJan-30Apr67 

Maj Edgar J. Love lMay-150ct67 

LtCol Robert W. Lewis l60ct-3 lDec67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 (VMFA-115)* 

*The squadron left Vietnam for Iwakuni, japan on liFeb67. 
CO Maj Larry Vandeusen l-23Jan67 

Maj Guy R. Campo 24-15Feb67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122)' 

*The squadron joined MAG- 11 from CONUS on lSep67. 
CO LtCol John M. Verdi lSep-3 lDec67 

Marine All- Weather Attack Squadron 242 (VMA (AW)-242) 
CO LtCol Howard Wolf lJan-30Apr67 

LtCol Earl E.Jacobson, Jr. lMay-17Aug67 

LtCol Lewis H. Abrams 18Aug-26Nov67 

Maj Arthur W. D. Lavigne 27Nov-3lDec67 

Marine All- Weather Fighter Squadron 232 (VMF (AW)-232) 

*The squadron departed for CONUS 3lAug67. 
CO LtCol Nicholas M. Trapnell, Jr. lJan-22Mar67 

Maj Melvin H. Sautter 23Mar-3lAug67 



280 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Marine AU- Weather Fighter Squadron 235 (VMF (AW)-235)* 
*The squadron arrived in Vietnam on 15Feb67. 
CO LtCol Edward R. Rogal 15Feb-3 lMay67 

LtCol Wallace Wessel Ijun- 1 50ct67 

LtCoI Lee E. Blanchard l60ct-28Dec67 

LtCol Carl R. Lundquist 29-3lDec67 

Marine Aircraft Group 12 (MAG- 12) 
CO Col Jay W. Hubbard lJan-15Feb67 

Col Baylor P. Gibson, Jr. l6Feb-3lAug67 

Col Dean Wilker lSep-31Dec67 

Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 12 (H&MS-12) 

CO LtCol Paul G. McMahon lJan-31Mar67 

Maj Eugene Lichtenwalter lApr-28May67 

LtCol Robert E. Miller 29May-9Nov67 

LtCol Dan C. Alexander 10Nov-31Dec67 



Marine Air Base Squadron 12 (MABS-12) 



CO LtCol Ralph D. Wallace 
Maj Forest G. Dawson 
LtCol LeoJ. Leblanc, Jr. 



lJan-2May67 

3May-2Sep67 

3Sep-3lDec67 



Marine Attack Squadron 121 (VMA-121)* 

^During the period 5jun-5Sep67, the squadron was atlwakuni, 
Japan undergoing rehabilitation. 



CO LtCol Donald R. Stiver 
Maj Forest G. Dawson 
LtCol James H. McGee 
Maj RichardJ. Kern 



lJan-l6Mar67 

17-30Mar67 

3lMar-24Sep67 

25Sep-3lDec67 



Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211)* 

*The squadron departed from Vietnam on 5Sep67 for 
rehabilitation at MCAF Iwakuni, japan and returned to Vietnam 



on lDec67. 

CO LtCol William G. McCool 
LtCol Knowlton P. Rice 
Maj Gerit L. Fenenga 
LtCol Francis H. Thurston 



lJan-25Feb67 

26Feb-30Jun67 

lJul-25Aug67 

26Aug-3lDec67 



Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA-214)* 

*The squadron departed for CONUS 5Apr67. 
CO Maj Richard E. Hemingway lJan-3Apr67 



Marine Attack Squadron 223 ( VM A-223) * 
*The squadron arrived from Iwakuni, Japan on 2Mar67 and 

returned to Iwakuni for rehabilitation on 3Dec67. 

CO LtCol Leonard C . Taf t 2 - 2 5 Mar67 

LtCol Claude E. Deering, Jr. 26Mar-26Sep67 

LtCol Ardiur W. Anthony 27Sep-3lDec67 



Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311)* 

*During the period lMar-5jun67 the squadron was at MCAS, 

Iwakuni, Japan for rehabilitation. 

CO LtCol Roger A. Morris IJan- 17Jun67 

LtCol Eugene Lichtenwalter 8Jun- 2 5 Aug67 

LtCol Edgar K. Jacks 26Aug-2 lSep67 

LtCol Richard B. Taber 22Sep-3lDec67 

Marine All- Weather Attack Squadron 533 (VMA [AW]-533) 
*VMA (AW)-333 arrived f-om CONUS on lApr^7. 
CO LtCol William P. Brown lApr-lOct67 

LtCol William H. Fitch 20ct-3 lDec67 

Marine Air Group 13 (MAG-13) 
CO Col Douglas D. Petty, Jr. lJan-5Feb67 

Col Dan H.Johnson 6Feb-7Aug67 

Col Edward F . LeFaivre 8 Aug- 3 1 Dec67 

Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 13 (H&MS-13) 

CO LtCol Walter E . Domina IJan- 30Mar67 

LtCol Lynn F. Williams 1 Apr- 19Jul67 

LtColJames E.Miller 20Jul-22Sep67 

LtCol Paul Sigmund 23Sep-3lDec67 

Marine Air Base Squadron 13 (MABS-13) 

CO LtCol Owen L. Owens 1 - 2 5jan67 

LtCol David W. Morrill 26Jan-23Mar67 

LtCol Kenny C. Palmer 24Mar-27Jul67 

LtCol Richard E. Carey 28Jul-30ct67 

LtCol Leroy A . Madera 60ct- 3 1 Dec67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 {VMFA-115)* 

*The squadron arrived in Vietnam from MCAS, Iwakuni, Japan 

on 13May67. 

CO LtCol Guy R. Campo 15May-27Jul67 

LtCol Kenny C. Palmer 28Jul-50ct67 

LtCol Richard E. Carey 60ct-3lDec67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314)* 

*During the period l6Aug-16Nov67 the squadron was at 
MCAS, Iwakuni, Japan for rehabilitation. 
CO Maj William H.Heintz lJan-3lMay67 

LtCol Frank D. Topley lJun-3lDec67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323)* 
*The squadron departed from Vietnam on liMay67 for MCAS, 

Iwakuni, Japan for a rehabilitation period; it returned to Vietnam 

on 15Aug67. 

CO LtCol Aubrey W. Talbert l-29Jan67 

LtCol Gordon H. Keller, Jr. 30jun- I4jul67 

LtCol Edison W. Miller 13jul-130ct67 

LtCol Harry T. Hagaman l40ct-3lDec67 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



281 



Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 542 (VMFA-542) 

CO LtCol Donald L. May lJan-2Feb67 

LtCoI Frederick L. Farrell, Jr. 3Feb- 18jul67 

LtCol John Hubner 19jul- l4Sep67 

LtCol Richard C. Marsh 15Sep-31Dec67 

Marine Aircraft Group 16 {MAG-16) 

CO Col Frank M. Hepler lJan-2lApr67 

Col Samuel F. Martin 22Apr-4Sep67 

Col Edwin O. Reed 5Sep-3lDec67 

Headquaners and Maintenance Squadron 16 (H&MS 16) 

CO LtCol Lucius O, Davis 1-3 ljan67 

LtCol Walter C. Kelly lFeb-21Apr67 

LtCol William E. Deeds 22Apr-20Jul67 

Maj Glenn A. Stephens 21Jul-30Sep67 

LtCol Lawrence J. Flanagan lOct-3lDec67 

Marine Aii Base Squadron 16 (MABS-16) 

CO LtCol Rodney D . McKitrick 1 -4Jan67 

LtCol Charles E. Wydner, Jr. 5Jan-30Sep67 

LtCol Frederick M. Kleppsattel, Jr. l-250ct67 

LtCol Samuel J. Fulton 260ct-3lDec67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163)* 

*The squadron tranferred to the SLF on 9Sep67. 
CO LtCol Rocco D. Bianchi lJan-26Apr67 

LtCol Walter C. Kelly 27Apr-8Sep67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 (HMM-164)' 

*During the period 5 Apr- lijul67 the squadron served with the 
SLF; it transferred to MAG-36 effective I60ct67. 
CO LTCol Warren C. Watson IJan- l4Feb67 

LtCol Rodney D. McKitrick 13Feb-24Jul67 

LtCol Manning T.Jannell 23jul-l6Sep67 

LtCol Roben F. Rick 17Sep-130ct67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (HMM-263) * 

*0n DFeb67 the squadron returned to M.CAS, Futema, 
Okinawa to assist in the CH-46 repair program. 
CO LtCol Leslie L. Darbyshire Ijan- 1 5Feb67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265) * 

*During the period 12Jul-23Aug67 the squadron served with 
the SLF; on 23Aug67 it returned to MAG-36 and on I60ct67 
transferred back to MAG-16. 

CO Maj Frank B. Ellis l-31Jan67 

LtCol Clifford D. Corn lFeb-2Apr67 

LtCol Robert L. Gover, Jr. 3Apr-18Jun67 

LtCol William R, Beeler 29Jun-3lDec67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 361 (HMM-361)' 

*The squadron arrived from Okinawa on 16Feb67; on 16Nov67 
it transferred to the SLF. 



CO LtCol McDonald D. Tweed 
LtCol Earl W.Traut 
Maj Homer A. Bruce 
LtCol Daniel M.Wilson 



l6-28Feb67 

lMar-23May67 

24May-170ct67 

180ct-13Nov67 



Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362) * 

*The squadron joined MAG-16 from the SLF on 8Sep67 and on 
150ct67 it transferred to MAG-36. 
CO LtCol NickJ. Kapetan 8-13Sep67 

LtCol Richard W. Cline l4Scp-130ct67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 363 (HMM-363)* 

*The squadron joined MAG- 13 from the SLF on 4Apr67. 
CO Maj Marvin E. Day 4Apr- 10Jul67 

LtCol Roben Lewis, Jr. 1 lJul-2Dec67 

LtCol Frankie E. Allgood 3-3lDec67 

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 (HMH-463) * 

*The major portion of the squadron arrived in Vietnam from 
CONUS on 23May67, but a detachment had served with MAG-16 
since 26Dec66. 
CO LtCol Samuel G. Beal 23May-30ct67 

LtCol Joseph L. Sadowski 60ct-3lDec67 

Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2) 

CO LtCol William F. Harrell Ijan- I4jul67 

Maj Morris G. Robbms l4-23Jul67 

LtCol Philip M . Crosswait 24Jul- 10Dec67 

LtCol Morris G. Robbins 1 1-3 lDec67 

Marine Observation Squadron 3 (VMO-3)* 

*The squadron transferred effective I60ct67. 
CO Maj Kyle W. Townsend lJan-17Aug67 

LtCol Glenn R. Hunter 18Aug-150ct67 

Marine Air Group 36 (MAG-36) 

CO Col Victor A. Armstrong lJan-28Mar67 

Col Orlando S . Tosdal - 29Mar- ljul67 

Col Frank E. Wilson 2JuI-3lDcc67 

Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron 36 (H&HS-36) 

CO LtCol William C. Carlson lJan-l4Aug67 

Maj Harold E. Roth 13Aug-130ct67 

LtCol Richard G. Courtney l40ct-3 lDec67 

Marine Air Base Squadron 36 (MABS-36) 

CO LtCol Joseph A. Nelson lJan-26Mar67 

LtCol Thomas E. Fish 27Mar67-30Apr67 

LtCol William L. Walker lMay-3Sep67 

Maj Claude E. Hendrbt 4Sep-30ct67 

LtCol MelvinJ. Sternberg 60ct-13Dec67 

MajJamesC. Robinson l6-3lDec67 



282 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163)* 

*The squadron joined MAG-36 from the SLF on 300ct67. 
CO Maj Frederick A\ Rueckel 30Oct-19Nov67 

LtQjl Louis W. Schwindt 20Nov-3lDec67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 {HMM-164)* 

*The squadron transferred from MAG- 16 to MAG-36 on 
I60ct67. 
CO LtCol Robert F. Rick 160ct-3lDec67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) 

CO LtCol William W. Eldridge, Jr. lJan-30Apr67 

LtColJohn A. Reames lMay-3lOct67 

LtCol Richard E. Romine lNov-3 lDec67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (HMM-262) * 

*The squadron transferred to the SLF on 23Aug67. 
CO LtCol Ural W. Shadrick Ijan- 1 5Jun67 

Maj Gregory A. Corliss 16Jun-23Aug67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (HMM-263) * 

*The squadron joined MAG-36 from the SLF on 13jun67 and 
departed from Vietnam for CONUS on 3lOct67. 
CO LtCol Edward K. Kirby 13Jun-9Jul67 

MajJamesC. Robinson 10Jul-3lOct67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265)* 

*The squadron joined MAG-36 from the SLF on 23Aug67 and 
transferred to MAG- 16 on 160ct67. 
CO LtCol William R. Beeler 23Aug-l60ct67 



Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362) * 

*The squadron joined MAG-36 from the SLF on 19Jan67. On 
8Sep67 it transferred to MAG-16, but on 160ct67 it rejoined 
MAG-36. 

CO LtCol Marshall B. Armstrong 19jan- 15Mar67 

LtCol Nick J. Kapetan l6Mar-13Sep67 

LtCol Richard W. Cline l4Sep-23Dec67 

Maj Walter H. Shaver 24-31Dec67 



Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 363 (HMM-363)' 

*The squadron transfered to the SLF on 19jan67 as a replace- 
ment for HMM-362. 
CO LtCol Kenneth E. Huntington l-19Jan67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (HMM-364) * 

*The advance party of HMM-364 arrived in Vietnam on 
290ct67; the rest of the squadron arrived during November. 
CO LtCol Louis A . Gulling 290ct-3 lDec67 



Marine Observation Squadron 3 (VMO-3) * 

*The squadron joined MAG-36 from MAG-16 on 160ct67. 

CO LtCol Glenn R. Hunter l60ct-3 lDec67 

Marine Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) 

CO LtCol William R. Maloney lJan-27Mar67 

LtCol Joseph A. Nelson 28Mar-l6Sep67 

LtCol WilliamJ. White 17Sep-3lDec67 

9th Marine Amphibious Brigade /Task Force 79* 

*The 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (9th MAB) activated on 
1 March 1966 and assumed responsibility for Task Force 79 (TF 
79) duties on that date. On 15Apr66, 9th MAB assumed respon- 
sibility for tactical Marine aviation and ground units in the 
Western Pacific which were not in Vietnam. 



9th Marine Amphibious Brigade 

CG BGen Michael P. Ryan 

BGen Louis G. Metzger 

BGen Jacob E. Glick 
C/S Col Richard R. Amerine 

Col Elton Mueller 

Col James A. Etheridge 
G-1 LtCol Edward V. Easter 

Maj Patrick E. Duffy 

LtCol George H. Benskin, Jr. 
G-2 Maj James C. Hitz 

Capt Eugene B. Burleson, Jr. 

Maj Clark G. Henry 

Capt Eugene B. Burleson, Jr. 

Capt Hugh S. Jolley 

Maj James V. Knapp 
G-3 LtCol James G. Dionisopoulos 

LtCol William L. Smith 

Col David E. Lownds 

LtCol Bruce F. Meyers 
G-4 Col Elton Mueller 

Col Warren A. Butcher 



Headquarters 

l-4Jan67 

4Jan-18May67 

19May-31Dec67 

lJan-l6Sep67 

17-27Sep67 

28Sep-31Dec67 

lJan-10Sep67 

ll-24Sep67 

25Sep-3lDec67 

lJan-21Feb67 

22-27Feb67 

28Feb-23Jul67 

26Jul-28Aug67 

29Aug67 

30Aug-31Dec67 

ljan-25jun67 

26Jun-12Jul67 

13-24Jul67 

25Jul-3lDec67 

lJan-8Sep67 

9Sep-3lDEc67 



Regimental Landing Team 26 (RLT-26)/Task Force 79.2* 

*0« 26Apr67, RLT-26 Headquarters became RLT-26 (Forward) 
when it deployed to Vietnam, leaving RLT-26 (Rear) on Okinawa. 
CO Col John J . Padley IJan- 1 1 Aug67 

Col David E. Lownds 12Aug-3lDec67 

Regimental Landing Team 26 (Rear) {RLT-26 [Rear]) * 

*During the year 1967, RLT-26 and later RLT-26 (Rear) acted as 
the command headquarters for battalion and battalion landing 
teams as they arrived in Vietnam for training, rehabilitation, and 
deployment. All of the regiment's integral battalions had 
deployed in Vietnam, consequently the listing of battalions which 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



283 



follows presents only the periods when the individual battalions 
came under 26th Marines' control. They appear in the sequence of 
their arrival during the year, rather than in any numerical se- 
quence. 

CO LtCol Joseph K. Gastrock, III 26Apr-15JuI67 

LtCol Richard D. Alexander l6JuI-3 lDec67 



1st Battalion, 13th Marines* 

*The battalion arrived on Okinawa on 20Aug66. 



CO Maj Robea L. Christian, Jr. 
Maj Alva F. Thompson, Jr. 
Maj Thomas J. Coyle 
LtCoIJohn A. Hennelly 



lJan-12May67 

13May-15Jun67 

l6Jun-l4Dec67 

15-3lDec67 



1st Battalion, 4th Marines* 

*The battalion became BLT 1/4 for planning on lijan67, 
transferred to the SLF on 27Jan67 and departed from Okinawa on 
28Jan67. 
CO LtCol Jack Westerman l-26Jan67 

Battalion Landing Team 3/9 (BLT 3/9)' 

*The BLT arrived from Vietnam on I4jan67, deactivated as a 
BLT on 18Jan67, but rejoined the SLF on 22Feb67, and sailed 
from Okinawa on 24Feb67. 
CO LtCoI Sherwood A. Brunnenmeyer l4Jan-22Fcb67 

Battalion Landing Team 1/9 (BLT 1/9)' 

*The battalion arrived from Vietnam on 24Jan67 and departed 
for Vietnam on 31Jan67. 
CO Maj James L. Day 24-31Jan67 

Battalion Landing Team 1/3 (BLT 1/3)* 
*The BLT arrived from Vietnam on 15Feb67 and departed as 
part of the SLF on 4Apr67. 
CO LtCoI Peter A. Wickwire 1 3Feb-4Apr67 

Battalion Landing Team 2/3 (BLT 2/3)* 
*The BLT arrived from Vietnam on 13Mar67 and departed as 
part of the SLF on 14Apr67. 
CO LtCoI Earl R. Delong 13Mar-l4Apr67 

Battalion Landing Team 3/4 (BLT 3/4)* 
*The BLT arrived from Vietnam on llApr67 and, upon receipt 
of orders recalling it to Vietnam, departed Okinawa on 16May67. 
CO LtCol Wendell N. Vest llApr-l6May67 

Marine Air Group 15 (MAG-15)/Task Group 79.3* 

*Marine Air Group 15, stationed at MCAS, Iwakuni, Japan 
served as a command and control headquarters for Marine aviation 
units requiring repair, rehabilitation, and training between Viet- 
nam deployments. The following listing of squadrons both resi- 



dent and transient, appears in order of arrival during the year 

1967. 

CO Col Charles Kimak lJan-3 1 Aug67 

LtCol David O. Takala l-27Sep67 

Col Wilbur C. Kellogg, Jr. 28-30Sep67 

LtCol David O . Takala 1 - 3 1 Oct67 

Col Wilbur C. Kellogg lNov-31Dec67 

Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 15 (H&MS-15) 
CO LtCol James McDaniel lJan-22Aug67 

LtCol Herman L. Mixon 23Aug-3lDec67 



Marine Air Base Squadron 15 (MABS-15) 



CO LtCol George H. Albers 
LtCol Clement C.J. Chamberlain 



lJan-6Sep67 
7Sep-3lDec67 



Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152) 

CO LtCol John Urell lJan-15May67 

LtCol Royce M. Wilhams 16May-31Dec67 

Marine Air Control Squadron 6 (MACS-6) 

CO Maj William K. Hatchings lJan-30Mar67 

Maj Rollin E. Hippler 31Mar-3lDec67 

Marine All- Weather Fighter Squadron 235 (VMF[AW]-235)* 
*The squadron transferred to MAG-11 on 14Feb67. 
CO LtCol Edward R. Rogal IJan- l4Feb67 

Marine Attack Squadron 223 (VMA-223)* 
*VMA-223 transferred to MAG-12, effective lMar67 and 

returned to MAG-15 after relief by VMA-221 on lDec67. 

CO LtCol Leonard C. Taft lJan-28Feb67 

LtCol Arthur W. Anthony, Jr l-3lDec67 

Marine Mediiun Helicopter Squadron 361 (HMM-361)' 

*The squadron transferred to MAG- 16 on 17Feb67. 
CO LtCol McDonald D. Tweed lJan-17Feb67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 (VMFA-115)* 

*The squadron departed MAG-11 in Vietnam on 15Feb67 and 
transferred to MAG- 15 on 14May67. 
CO Maj Guy R. Campo 15Feb-13May67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (HMM-263) ' 

*The squadron arrived from MAG-16 on 20Feb67 and departed 
to the SLF on 3Apr67. 
CO LtCol Edward K. Kirby 20Feb-3Apr67 

Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311)* 
*The squadron arrived from MAG-12 on lMar67 and returned 
to MAG-12 on ljun67. 
CO LtCol Roger A. Morris iMar- ljun67 



284 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMA-323)* 

*The squadron arrived from MAG-13 on 16May67 and return- 
ed to MAG- 13 on 17Aug67. 
CO LtCol Gordon H. Kellerjr 16May-15Jul67 

LtCol Edison W. Miller l6Jul-17Aug67 

Marine Attack Squadron 121 (VMA-121)* 

*T/>e squadron was joined from MAG-12 on l]un67 and 
returned to MAG-12 on 5Sep67. 
CO LtCol James H. McGee lJun-5Sep67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314)* 

*The squadron arrived from MAG-13 on 18Aug67 and return- 
ed to MAG-13 on UNov67. 
CO LtCol Frank D . Topley 18Aug- 1 5Nov67 

Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211)* 

*The squadron joined from MAG-12 on 6Sep67 and was 
returned to MAG-12 on lDec67. 
CO LtCol Francis H. Thurston 6Sep- lDec67 

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 542 (VMFA-542)* 

*The squadron joined from MAG-13 on 15Nov67. 
CO LtCol Richard C. Marsh 13Nov-3lDec67 



Special Landing Force Alpha (SLF Alpha) /TO 79.4) 
Activated lMar67, SLF Alpha was in fact junior to its compa- 
nion SLF, Bravo, which as Task Group 79.5, formed in 1966. 
CO Col James A. Gallo lMar-llJun67 

Col John A. Conway 12Jun-31Dec67 

Special Landing Force Alpha Battalion Landing Team 
Battalion Landing Team (BLT 1/3)* 
*BLT 1/3 joined SLF Alpha on 3Apr67. During the period 
11-27 Aug67, BLT 1/3 served under the operational control of 
Task Force X-Ray in Vietnam. 

CO LtCol Peter A. Wickwire 3Apr-13Jul67 

LtCol Alfred I. Thomas l6Jul-17Nov 

LtCol Richard W. Goodale 10Nov-3lDec67 

Special Landing Force Alpha Helicopter Squadron* 
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 (HMM-263) 

*HMM-263 joined SLF Alpha on 3Apr67, the same date as BLT 
1/3. During the periods 13-27Jun67 and 3lOct-14Nov67, no 
squadron served with SLF Alpha, and during the period 
16-27 Aug67 HMM-362 reverted to the operational control of 1st 
MAW. 
CO LtCol Edward K. Kirby 3Apr-12Jun67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362) 

CO LtCol Nick J. Kapetan 28Jul-7Scp67 



Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163 

CO LtCol Walter C. Kelly 8-22Sep67 

Maj Fredrick A. Rueckel 23Scp-30Oct67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 361 {HMM-361) 

CO LtCol Daniel M. Wilson 13Nov-31Dec67 

Special Landing Force Bravo (SLF Bravo) /TG 79.5* 

*The first special landing force, Task Group 79.5 became 

Special Landing Force Bravo on lMar67 . 

CO Col Harry D. Wortman ljan-6jul67 

Col James G. Dionisopoulos 7jul-5Nov67 

Col Maynard W . Schmidt 6Noy- 3 1 Dec67 

Special Landing Force Bravo Battalion Landing Team 

Battalion Landing Team 1/9 (BLT 1/9) 

CO Maj James L. Day l-23jan67 



Battalion Landing Team 1/4 (BLT 1/4) 
CO LtCol Jack Westerman 26Jan-28Mar67 

LtCol Theodore J. Willis 29Mar- 1 Apr67 

Battalion Landing Team 2/3 (BLT 2/3)* 
*Effective 2Apr67 , BLT 1/4 transferred to the 3d Marine Divi- 
sion. Its replacement BLT 2/3, activated on Okinawa on 3Apr67 
but did not embark until the 13th. 

CO LtCol Earl R. Delong 3Apr-21May67 

Maj Wendell O. Beard 22May-12Jul67 

Maj John R. Broujos 13-16Jul67 

LtCol Emil W. Herich 17Jul-22Aug67 

Maj Wendell O. Beard 23Aug-90ct67 

LtCol Henry Englisch ^- 10Oct-31Dec67 



Battalion Landing Team 3/1 (BLT 3/1) 
CO LtCol Max McQuown 1-31 Dec67 

Special Landing Force Bravo Helicopter Squadrons 
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMM-362) 

CO LtCol Marshall B. Armstrong 1-I8jan67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 363 (HMM-363) 
CO LtCol Kenneth E. Huntington 19Jan-3Mar67 

Maj Marvin E. Day 4Mar-3Apr67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 (HMM-164) 

CO LtCol Rodney D. McKitrick 4Apr-12Jul67 

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265) 

CO LtCol William R. Beeler 12Jul-22Aug67 



COMMAND AND STAFF LIST 



285 



Matine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (HMM-262) 

CO Maj Gregory A. Corliss 23Aug-llOct67 



COMajJohnW. Alber 
Maj David L. Althoff 



120ct-23Nov67 
24Nov-31Dec67 



Detachment Alpha, Marine Medium HeUcopter Squadron 262 * 

*Detachment Alpha, HMM-262 formed when the 1st MAW 
grounded the CH-46s. Used only for emergency operations, the 
detachment remained with the ARG shipping until correction of 
the CH-46 structural problems. 



Marine Advisory Unit, Naval Advisory Group 

SMA Col Nels E. Anderson ljan-23jul67 

Col Richard L. Michael, Jr. 24Jul-31Dec67 



Appendix B 

Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations 



A-IE— Douglas Skyraider, a propeller-driven, single-engine, at- 
tack aircraft. 

A-4— Douglas Skyhawk, a single-seat, jet attack aircraft 
in service on board carriers of the U.S. Navy and with land- 
based Marine attack squadrons. 

A-6A— Grumman Intruder, a rwin-jet, twin-seat, attack aircraft 
specifically designed to deliver weapons on targets completely 
obscured by weather or darkness. 

A AR— After action report. 

AC-47 — Douglas C-47 Skytrain, twin-engine fixed -wing transport 
modified with 7.62mm miniguns and used as a gunship. 

ADC— Assistant division commander. 

AdminO — Administrative officer. 

Adv — Advanced . 

AGC— Amphibious command ship. The current designation is 

LCC. 

AK-47 — Russian-made Kalashnikov gas-operated 7.62mm 
automatic rifle, with an effective range of 400 meters. It was 
the standard rifle of the North Vietnamese Army. 

AKA — Attack cargo ship, a naval ship designed to transport 
combat-loaded cargo in an assault landing. LKA is the current 
designation. 

ANGLICO — Air and naval gunfire liaison company, an organiza- 
tion composed of Marine and Navy personnel specially 
qualified for control of naval gunfire and close air suppon. 
ANGLICO personnel normally provided this service while at- 
tached to U.S. Army, Korean, and ARVN units. 

AOA — Amphibious objective area, a defined geographical area 
within which is located the area or areas to be captured by the 
amphibious task force. 

APA— Attack transport ship, a naval ship, designed for combat 
loading elements of a battalion landing team. LPA is the cur- 
rent designation. 

AFC — Armored personnel carrier. 

Arc Light — The codename for B-52 bombing missions in South 
Vietnam. 

ARG— Amphibious ready group. 

Arty— Artillery. 

ARVN — Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). 

ASRT— Air suppon radar team, a subordinate operational com- 
ponent of a tactical air control system which provides ground 
controlled precision flight path guidance and weapons release 
for attack aircraft. 

B-3 Front — North Vietnamese military command established in 
the Central Highlands of South Vietnam to control military 
operations in Kontum, Dar Loc, and Pleiku Provinces. 

B-52 — Boeing Stratofortress, U.S. Air Force eight-engine, swept- 
wing, heavy jet bomber. 



BGen — Brigadier general. 
BLT— Battalion landing team. 
Bn — Battalion. 
Brig — Brigade. 

C-117D — Douglas Skytrain, a twin-engine transport aircraft. The 
C-117D was an improved version of the C-47, the military ver- 
sion of the DC- 3. 

C- 130— Lockheed Hercules, a four-engine turboprop transport 
aircraft. 

CAAR— Combat after action report. 

Capt — Captain . 

CAS — Close air support. 

Cdr — Commander. 

CG — Commanding general. 

CH-37 — Sikorsky twin-engine, heavy transport helicopter 
which carries three crew members and 20 passengers. 

CH-46 — Boeing Vertol Sea Knight, a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor 
transport helicopter, designed to carry a four-man crew and 17 
combat-loaded troops. 

CH-53 — Sikorsky Sea Stallion, a single-rotor, heavy 
transport helicopter powered by two shaft-turbine engines 
with an average payload of 12,800 pounds. Carries crew of 
three and 38 combat-loaded troops. 

CIDG — Civilian Irregular Defense Group, South Vietnamese 
paramilitary force, composed largely of Montagnards, the 
nomadic tribesmen who populate the South Vietnamese 
highlands, and advised by the U.S. Army Special Forces. 

CinCPac — Commander in Chief, Pacific . 

CinCPacFlt — Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. 

Class (I-V) — Categories of military supplies, e.g.. Class I, rations; 
Class III, POL; Class V, Ammunition. 

CMC — Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

CMH — Center of Military History, Department of the Army. 

CNO — Chief of Naval Operations. 

CO — Commanding officer. 

Col — Colonel. 

CORDS— Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Sup- 
port, the agency organized under MACV in May 1967 and 
charged with coordinating U.S. and Vietnamese pacification 
efforts. 

Combined action program — A Marine pacification program 
which integrated a Marine infantry squad with a South Viet- 
namese Popular Forces platoon in a Vietnamese village. 

ComdC— Command chronology. 

ComUSMACV— Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Com- 
mand, Vietnam. 

COS VN — Central Office of South Vietnam, the nominal Com- 
munist military and political headquarters in South Vietnam. 

287 



288 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



County Fair— A sophisticated cordon and search operation in a 
particular hamlet or village by South Vietnamese troops, 
police, local officials, and U.S. Marines in an attempt to screen 
and register the local inhabitants. 

CP— Gsmmand post. 

CRC— G)ntrol and reponing center, an element of the U.S. Air 
Force tactical air control system, sub)ordinate to the Tactical 
Air Q)ntrol Center, which conducted radar and warning 
operations. 

CTZ— Corps Tactical Zone. 

DASC— Direct air support center— A subordinate operational 
component of the Marine air control system designed for con- 
trol of close air support and other direct air support opera- 
tions. 

D-Day — Day scheduled for the beginning of an operation. 

DD — Navy Destroyer. 

DMZ— Demilitarized Zone separating Nonh and South Vietnam. 

DRV — Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). 

Dtd- Dated. 

Div— Division. 

DOD — Department of Defense. 

Duster— The nickname for the U.S. Army's tracked vehicle, the 
M-42, which mounted dual 40-mm automatic weapons. 

EA-6A— The electronic-countermeasures version of the A-6A In- 
truder. 

ECM — Electronic countermeasures, a major subdivision of elec- 
tronic warfare involving actions against enemy electronic 
equipment or to exploit the enemy's use of electromagnetic 
radiations from such equipment. 

EF-lOB— An ECM modified version of the Navy F-3D Skynight, a 
twin-engine jet night-fighter of Korean War vintage. 

FLINT — Electronic intelligence, the intelligence information 
gained by monitoring radiations from enemy electronic equip- 
ment. 

Engr— Engineer. 

F-4B— McDonnell Phantom II, a twin-engined, two-seat, long- 
range, all-weather jet interceptor and attack bomber. 

FAC (A) — Forward air controller (Airborne). 

FFV— Field Force, Vietnam I and II, U.S. Army commands in II 
and III Corps areas of South Vietnam. 

FLC— Force Logistic Command. 

FLSG— Force logistic support group. 

FLSU — Force logistic support unit. 

FMFPac — Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. 

FO — Forward observer. 

FSCC — Fire support coordination center, a single location in- 
volved in the coordination of all forms of fire support. 

FSR — Force service regiment. 

Fwd — Forward. 

G— Refers to staff positions on a general staff, e. g., G-1 would 
refer to the staff member responsible for personnel; G-2 in- 
telligence; G-3 operations; G-4 logistics, and G-5 civil affairs. 

Gen — General. 

Golden Fleece— Marine rice harvest protection operation. 

Grenade Launcher, M79 — U.S. -built, single-shot, breech- 
loaded shoulder weapon which fires 40mm projectiles and 
weighs approximately 6.5 pounds when loaded; it has a sus- 



tained rate of aimed fire of five-seven rounds per minute and 

an effective range of 375 meters. 
Gun, 175mm, M107— U.S. -built, self-propelled gun which 

weighs 62,000 pounds and fires a 147-pound projectile to a 

maximum range of 32,800 meters. Maximum rate of fire is 

one round every two minutes. 
Gun, 155mm, M53 — U.S. -built, medium, self-propelled gun, 

with a 23,300 meter range, and weighing 96,000 pounds. It 

has a sustained rate of fire of one round every two minutes. 
GVN — Government of Vietnam (South Vietnam). 

H&I fires— Harassing and interdiction fires. 

H&S Co— Headquarters and service company. 

HAWK— A mobile, surface-to-air guided missile, designed to 
defend against low-flying enemy aircraft and short range 
missiles. 

HE — High explosive . 

H-Hour- The specific hour an operation begins. 

HistBr, G-3Div, HQMC- Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Head- 
quarters, U.S. Marine Corps, the Vietnam-era predecessor of 
the History and Museums Division. 

HLZ— Helicopter landing zone. 

HMM — Marine medium helicopter squadron. 

Howitzer, 8-mch (M55) — U.S. -Built, self-propelled, heavy- 
artillery piece with a maximum range of 16,900 meters and a 
rate of fire of one round every two minutes. 

Howitzer, 105mm, MlOlAl — U.S. -built, towed, general purpose 
light artillery piece with a maximum range of 11 ,000 meters 
and maximum rate of fire of four rounds per minute. 

Howitzer, 155mm, M-114A towed and M-109 self- 
propelled— U.S. -built medium artillery with a maximum 
range of 1 5 ,080 meters and a maximum rate of fire of 3 rounds 
per minute. Marines employed both models in Vietnam. The 
newer and heavier self-propelled M109 was largely road 
bound, while the lighter, towed M114A could be moved 
either by truck or by helicopter. 

Howtar— A 4.2-inch (107mm) mortar tube mounted on a 75mm 
pack howitzer frame. 

"Huey" — Popular name for UH-1 series of helicopters. 

ICC — International Control Commission, established by the 
Geneva Accords of 1954 to supervise the truce ending the First 
Indochina War between the French and the Viet Minh and 
resulting in the panition of Vietnam at the 17th Parallel. The 
members of the Commission were from Canada, India, and 
Poland. 

ICCC— I Corps Coordinating Council, consisting of U.S. and 
Vietnamese officials in I Corps who coordinated the civilian 
assistance program in I Corps. 

I Corps— The military and administrative subdivision which in- 
cludes the five northern provinces of South Vietnam. 

J— The designations for members of a joint staff which includes 
members of several services comprising the command, e.g., 
J-1 would refer to the staff member responsible for personnel; 
J-2 intelligence; J- 3 operations; J-4 logistic andJ-5 civil affairs. 

JCS-Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S.). 

JGS— Joint General Staff (South Vietnamese). 

JTD— Joint table of distribution. 



GLOSSARY 



289 



KANZUS — A proposed international brigade to man defenses 

along the DMZ; the acronym stands for Korean, Australian, 

New Zealand, and United States. 
KC- 130— The in-flight refueling tanker configuration of the 

C-130 Lockheed Hercules. 
KIA— Killed-in-action. 
Kit Carson Scout— Viet Cong defectors recruited by Marines to 

serve as scouts, interpreters, and intelligence agents. 

L-Hour— In planned helicopter operations, it is the specific hour 
the helicopters land in the landing zone. 

LAAM Bn— Light antiaircraft missile battalion. 

LCM — Landing craft mechanized, designed to land tanks, trucks, 
and trailers directly onto the beach. 

LCVP— Landing craft, vehicle, personnel, a small craft with a bow 
ramp used to transpoa assault troops and light vehicles to the 
beach. 

LOI— Letter of Instruction. 

LPD — Amphibious transpon, dock, a ship designed to transport 
and land troops, equipment, and supplies by means of em- 
barked landing craft, amphibious vehicles, and helicopters. It 
has both a submersible well deck and a helicopter landing 
deck. 

LPH— Amphibious assault ship, a ship designed or modified to 
transpoa and land troops, equipment, and supplies by means 
of embarked helicopters. 

LSA— Logistic support area. 

LSD — Landing ship, dock, a landing ship designed to combat 
load, transport, and launch amphibious crafts or vehicles 
together with crews and embarked personnel, and to provide 
limited docking and repair services to small ships and crafts. It 
lacks the helicopter landing deck of the LPD. 

LST— Landing ship, tank, landing ship designed to transport 
heavy vehicles and to land them on a beach. 

Lt — Lieutenant. 

LtCol— Lieutenant colonel. 

LtGen— Lieutenant general. 

Ltr— letter. 

LVTE— Amphibian vehicle, tracked, engineer; a lightly armored 
amphibious vehicle designed for minefield and obstacle 
clearance. 

LVTH — Amphibian vehicle, tracked, howitzer; a lightly armored, 
self-propelled, amphibious 105mm howitzer. It resembles an 
LVTP with a turret for the howitzer. 

LVTP— Landing vehicle, tracked, personnel; an amphibian vehi- 
cle used to land and or transport personnel. 

LZ— Landing zone. 

MAB— Marine Amphibious Brigade. 

Machine gun, .50 caliber— U.S. built, belt-fed, recoil-operated, 
air-cooled automatic weapon, which weighs approximately 80 
pounds without mount or ammunition; it has a sustained rate 
of fire of 100 rounds per minute and an effective range of 
1,450 meters. 

Machine gun, M60— U.S. built, belt-fed, gas-operated, air- 
cooled, 7.62mm automatic weapon, which weighs approx- 
imately 20 pounds without mount or ammunition; it has a 
sustained rate of fire of 100 rounds per minute and an effec- 
tive range of 1,000 meters. 

MACS — Marine air control squadron, provides and operates 



ground facilities for the detection and interception of hostile 
aircraft and for the navigational direction of friendly aircraft in 
the conduct of support operations. 

MACV — Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. 

MAF— Marine amphibious force. 

MAG— Marine aircraft group. 

Main Force — Refers to organized Viet Cong battalions and 
regiments as opposed to local VC guerrilla groups. 

Maj — Major. 

MajGen — Major general. 

MarDiv — Marine division. 

— Marines — Designates a Marine regiment, e.g. 3d Marines. 

MASS — Marine air support squadron, provides and operates 
facilties for the control of support aircraft operating in direct 
support of ground forces. 

MAW— Marine aircraft wing. 

MCAF— Marine Corps air facility. 

MCAS — Marine Corps air station. 

MCCC — Marine Corps Command Center. 

MCOAG — Marine Corps Operations Analysis Group. 

MedCap — Medical civilian assistance program. 

MIA — Missing-in-action . 

MilHistBr— Military History Branch. 

Mortar, 4.2-inch, M30 — U.S. built, rifled, muzzle-loaded, drop- 
fired weapon consisting of tube, base-plate and standard; 
weapon weighs 330 pounds and has a maximum range of 
4,020 meters. Rate of fire is 20 rounds per minute. 

Mortar, 60mm, M19 — U.S. built, smooth-bore, muzzle-loaded, 
weapon, which weighs 45.2 pounds when assembled; it has a 
maximum rate of fire of 30 rounds per minute and sustained 
rate of fire of 18 rounds per minute; the effective range is 
2,000 meters. 

Mortar, 81mm, M29 — U.S. built, smooth-bore, muzzle-loaded, 
which weighs approximately 115 pounds when assembled; it 
has a sustained rate of fire of two rounds per minute and an ef- 
fective range of 2,300-3,650 meters, depending upon am- 
munition used. 

Mortar, 82mm, Soviet-built, smooth-bore, mortar, 
single-shot, high angle of fire weapon which weighs approx- 
imately 123 pounds; it has a maximum rate of fire of 25 
rounds per minute and a maximum range of 3,040 meters. 

Monar, 120mm — Soviet or Chinese Communist built, smooth 
bore, drop or trigger fired, mortar which weighs approximate- 
ly 600 pounds; it has a maximum rate of fire of 15 rounds per 
minute and a maximum range of 5,700 meters. 

MR-5 — Military Region 5, a Communist political and military sec- 
tor in northern South Vietnam, including all of I Corps. NVA 
units in MR-5 did not report to COSVN. 

MS — Manuscript. 

Msg — Message. 

NAG — Naval Advisory Group. 

NCC — Naval component commander. 

NCO — Non-commissioned officer. 

NLF— National Liberation Front, the political arm of the 

Communist-led insurgency against the South Vietnamese 

Government. 
NMCB — Naval mobile construction battalion (Seabees). 
NMCC— National Military Command Center. 
NP A — National priority area, designated targeted area for 



290 



FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



pacification in South Vietnam. 
Nui — Vietnamese word for hill or mountain. 
Nung— A Vietnamese tribesman, of a separate ethnic group and 

probably of Chinese origin. 
NVA — North Vietnamese Army; often used colloquially to refer 

to a North Vietnamese soldier. 

O-lB— Cessna, single-engine observation aircraft. 

OAB, NHD — Operational Archives Branch, Naval History Divi- 
sion. 

Ontos — U.S. built, lightly-armored, tracked antitank vehicle 
armed with six coaxially-mounted 106mm recoilless rifles. 

OpCon — Operational control, the authority granted to a com- 
mander to direct forces assigned for specific missions or tasks 
which are usually limited by function, time, or location. 

OpO — Operation order, a directive issued by a commander to 
subordinate commanders for the execution of an operation. 

OPlan — Operation plan, a plan for a single or series of connected 
operations to be carried out simultaneously or in succession; it 
is the form of directive employed by higher authority to per- 
mit subordinate commanders to prepare supporting plans and 
orders . 

OpSum — Operational summary. 

OSJS (MACV) — Office of the Secretariat, Joint Staff (Military 
Assistance Command Vietnam). 

PA VN — Peoples Army of Vietnam (North Vietnam). This 

acronym dropped in favor of NVA. 
PF— Popular Force, Vietnamese militia who were usually 

employed in the defense of their own communities. 
POL— Petroleum, oil, and lubricants. 
Practice Nine — The codename for the planning of the antiinfiltra- 

tion barrier across the DMZ. 
Project Delta — A special South Vietnamese reconnaissance group 

consisting of South Vietnamese Special Forces troops and U.S. 

Army Special Forces advisors. 

Recoilless rifle, 106mm, M401A1 — U.S built, single-shot, 
recoilless, breech-loaded weapon which weighs 438 pounds 
when assembled and mounted for firing; it has a sustained 
rate of fire of six rounds per minute and an effective range of 
1,365 meters. 

RF— Regional Force, Vietnamese militia who were employed in a 
specific area. 

RF-4B— Photo-reconnaissance model of the F4B Phantom II. 

RF-8A — Reconnaissance version of the F-8 Chance Vought 
Crusader. 

Regt — Regiment. 

Revolutionary Development— The South Vietnamese pacification 
program started in 1966. 

Revolutionary Development Teams— Especially trained Viet- 
namese political cadre who were assigned to individual 
hamlets and villages and conducted various pacification and 
civilian assistance tasks on a local level. (See rural reconstruc- 
tion.) 

Rifle, M 14 — Gas-operated, magazine-fed, air-cooled, semi- 
automatic, 7.62mm caliber shoulder weapon, which weighs 12 
pounds with a full 20-round magazine; it has a sustained rate 
of fire of 30 rounds per minute and an effective range of 460 
meters. 



Rifle, Ml6 — Gas-operated, magazine-fed, air-cooled, auto- 
matic, 5.56mm caliber shoulder weapon, which weighs 3.1 
pounds with a 20-round magazine; it has a sustained rate of 
fire of 12-15 rounds per minute and an effective range of 460 
meters. 

RLT— Regimental landing team. 

ROK— Republic of Korea (South Korea) 

Rolling Thunder — Codename for U.S. air operations over North 
Vietnam. 

Rough Rider — Organized vehicle convoys, often escorted by 
helicopters and armored vehicles, using Vietnam's roads to 
supply Marine bases. 

Route Package — Code name used with a number to designate 
areas of North Vietnam for the American bombing campaign. 
Route Package I was the area immediately north of the DMZ. 

RRU- Radio Research Unit. 

Rural Reconstruction— The predecessor pacification campaign to 
Revolutionary Development. 

RVN — Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) 

RVNAF— Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. 

S- —Refers to staff positions on regimental and battalion levels. 
S-1 would refer to the staff member responsible for personnel; 
S-2 intelligence; S-3, operations; S-4 logistics; and S-5 civil af- 
fairs. 

SAR— Search and rescue. 

SATS — Short airfield for tactical support, an expedition- 
tary airfield used by Marine Corps aviation that included a 
portable runway surface, aircraft launching and recovery 
devices, and other essential expeditionary airfield com- 
ponents. 

SEATO — Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. 

2d AD — 2d Air Division, the major U.S. Air Force command in 
Vietnam prior to the establishment of the Seventh Air Force. 

SecDef— Secretary of Defense. 

SecState— Secretary of State. 

Seventh AF— Seventh Air Force, the major U.S. Air Force com- 
mand in Vietnam. 

Seventh Fit — Seventh Fleet, the U.S. fleet assigned to the Pacific. 

Si tRep — Situation Report. ~^_ 

SLF— Special landing force. 

Song — Vietnamese for "river". 

SOP— Standing operating procedure, set of instructions laying 
out standardized procedures. 

Sortie — An operational flight by one aircraft. 

Sparrow Hawk— A small rapid reaction force on standby, 
ready for inserion by helicopter for reinforcement of units in 
contact with the enemy. 

Steel Tiger— The codename for the air campaign over Laos. 

Stingray — Special Marine reconnaissance missions in which small 
Marine reconnaissance teams call artillery and air attacks on 
targets of opportunity. 

SPOS — Strong point obstacle system, often called the 
"McNamara Line," which had the intended purpose of con- 
trolling movement of NVA units from North Vietnam into I 
Corps. 

Strike Company— an elite company in a South Vietnamese infan- 
try division, directly under the control of the division com- 
mander. 

TAC( A) — Tactical air coordinator (Airborne), an officer in an 



GLOSSARY 



291 



airplane, who coordinates close air support. 

TACC— Tactical air control center, the principal air operations in- 
stallation for controlling all aircraft and air-warning functions 
of tactical air operations. 

T ADC— Tactical air direction center, an air operations installation 
under the tactical air control center, which direct aircraft and 
aircraft warning functions of the tactical air center. 

TAOC— Tactical air operations center, a subordinate component 
of the air command and control system which controls all 
enroute air traffic and air defense operations. 

TAFDS — Tactical airfield fuel dispensing system, the expedi- 
tionary storage and dispensing system of aviation fuel at tac- 
tical airfields. It uses 10,000 gallon fabric tanks to store the 
fuel. 

Tally Ho— Bombing campaign under ComUSMACV begun in Ju- 
ly 1966 of Route Package I in North Vietnam. 

Tank, M48 — U.S. built 30.7-ton tank with a crew of four; primary 
armament is turret-mounted 90mm gun with one .30 caliber 
and one .50 caliber machine gun. Maximum road speed of 32 
miles per hour and an average range of 195 miles. 

TAOR— Tactical area of responsibility, a defined area of land for 
which responsibility is specifically assigned to the commander 
of the area as a measure for control of assigned forces and coor- 
dination of support. 

TE— Task element. 

TG— Task Group. 

Tiger Hound — Airstrikes in Laos directed by U.S. Air Force small 
fixed-wing observation aircraft, flying up to 12 miles in 
southeastern Laos. 

TU— Task unit. 

UH-lE-Bell "Huey" — A single-engine, light attack/ obseration 
helicopter noted for its maneuverability and firepower; carries 
a crew of three; it can be armed with air-to-ground rocket 
packs and fuselage-mounted, electrically-fired machine guns. 

UH-34D — Sikorsky Sea Horse, a single-engine medium transport 
helicopter with a crew of three, carries 8-12 combat soldiers, 
depending upon weather conditions. 

USA — United States Army. 



US AF— United States Air Force. 

USAID— United States Agency for International Development. 

USMC — United States Marine Corps. 

U.S. Mission Council — Council, chaired by the U.S. Ambassador 
to South Vietnam and included ComUSMACV, which 
developed and coordinated U.S. policy within South Viet- 
nam. 

USN — United States Navy. 

USOM — United States Operations Mission, the United States 
civilian organization in RVN including the U.S. Embassy, 
AID, etc. 

VC— Viet Cong, a term used to refer to the Communist guerrilla 

in South Vietnam; a derogatory contraction of the Vietnamese 

phrase meaning "Vietnamese Communists." 
Viet Minh — The Vietnamese contraction for Viet Nam Doc Lap 

Nong Minh Hoi, a Communist-led coalition of nationalist 

groups, which actively opposed the Japanese in World War II 

and the French in the first Indochina War. 
VM A— Marine attack squadron. In naval aviation, the "V" 

designates "heavier than air" as opposed to craft that were 

"lighter than air." 

VMF (AW) — Marine fighter squadron (all-weather). 
VMFA — Marine fighter attack squadron. 
VMCJ — Marine composite reconnaissance squadron. 
VMGR— Marine refueller transport squadron. 
VMO — Marine observation squadron. 
VNAF— Vietnamese Air Force. 
VNMB — Vietnamese Marine Brigade. 
VNMC— Vietnamese Marine Corps. 
VNN — Vietnamese Navy. 

VT — Variable timed electronic fuze for an artillery shell which 
causes airburst over the target area. 



WestPac — Western Pacific. 
WI A — Wounded-in-action . 
WFRC-Washngton Federal Records Center. 



Appendix C 

Chronology of Significant Events 



1 January III MAF strength totaled 65,789. 

6 January Operation Deckhouse V, the first major offensive by U.S. forces into 
the Mekong Delta, began with helicopter and waterborne landings by 
the SLF and Vietnamese Marines. The Viet Cong knew of the opera- 
tion in advance and departed before the Marines landed. 
26 January MACV headquarters completed its Practice Nine Requirement Plan for 
constructing a strong point obstacle system (SPOS) south of the DMZ. 
26 January Operation Desoto began. Task Force X-Ray controlled this operation 
which involved elements of the 4th and 5th Marines in a search and 
destroy mission in Quang Nam Province. The operation lasted 73 days. 
31 January Operation Prairie, the 3d Marine Division's multi-battalion operation, 
which began in August 1966, ended in Quang Tri Province. The 
operation opposed elements of two North Vietnamese divisions. 
1 February The 3d Marine Division began Operation Prairie II, a continuation of 
Prairie I. 
8-12 February These dates marked the ceasefire for Tet, a major Vietnamese holiday. 
Thereafter, North Vietnamese units, for the first time, defended key 
terrain from well-constructed, fortified lines and employed artillery 
weapons ranging from 82mm to 130mm in size. 
12-22 February The 1st Marines conducted Operation Stone in Quang Nam Province. 
In this operation. Marines destroyed a vast network of caves, tunnels, 
and bunkers. In the operation's second phase. Marines surrounded 
elements of the R-20 Battalion and then swept back and forth over the 
cordoned area. 
21 February Dr. Bernard Fall, noted historian of the French combat experience in 
Indochina, died in a explosion of an enemy mine. Dr. Fall was accom- 
panying the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines on Operation Chinook II. 
26 February The 1st Marines began Operation Lafayette, a multi-battalion effort in 
Quang Nam Province. 
10 March III MAF completed the introduction of the M-16 to Marines in Viet- 
nam. 
18 March The first woman Marine to serve in Vietnam, MSgt Barbara J. Dulin- 
sky, arrived in Saigon, for assignment to the MACV combat operations 
center. 
18 March The 3d Marine Division ended Prairie II and began Paririe III the 

following day. The latter continued until 20 April. 
26 March COMUSMACV ordered III MAF to prepare a plan for locating, con- 
structing, and occupying a strongpoint obstacle system south of the 
DMZ. 
5 April The 4th Marines began a multi-battalion operation named Big Horn in 
Thua Thien Province. 

293 



294 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 

6-tO April The 1st Marines conducted Operation Canyon with South Vietnamese 

ranger battalions participating. 
20 April Operation Prairie IV began in Quang Tri Province. It ended on 17 

May. 
20 April Task Force Oregon arrived at Chu Lai. 
24 April The First Battle of Khe Sanh began. Units of the 3d Marine Division 

subsequently fought bitter battles with regular NVA forces for control 

of Hills 881S, 881N, and 861. This battle continued into May. 

2 May 1 1th Engineer Battalion completed clearing a 200-meter wide trace 

between Con Thien and Gio Linh and began clearing a 500-meter 
perimeter around each position. 

13 May The 26th Marines began Operation Crockett in the Khe Sanh area. 

18 May Units of the 3d Marine Division, augmented by the SLF and ARVN 
forces, began Operation Hickory by moving into the southern portion 
of the DMZ in a three-pronged attack against North Vietnamese units 
using the area as a sanctuary. 

26 May The 5th Marines began Operation Union II, which continued until 5 
June. 

31 May LtGen Robert E. Cushman, Jr., succeeded LtGen Lewis W. Walt is 

CG, III MAF. 
7 June A company-size force from the 26th Marines engaged an NVA force 
on Hill 881 during Operation Crockett and reported killing 59 NVA 
soldiers. 
14-22 June The 7th Marines conducted Operation Arizona with a multi-battalion 
force. The operation moved 1,650 refugees to camps at Due Due, the 
headquarters of the An Hoa industrial complex 15 miles south of Da 
Nang. 

18 June III MAF published its OpPlan 11-67 outling the SPOS concept. 

25 June LtGen Cushman and MajGen Hoang Xuan Lam, the Vietnamese Ar- 
my I Corps commander, opened the new 1,680 foot prefabricated 
bridge across the Da Nang River. 

3 July North Vietnamese artillery fired supply dumps at the Marines' base at 

Dong Ha. 

14 July The name "Dye Marker" became effective as the title of the efforts to 

construct an SPOS south of the DMZ. 

15 July An early morning enemy rocket attack heavily damaged aircraft and 

the southern end of the Da Nang Air Base. 
28-29 July The 3d Marine Division sent the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, reinforced 
with armored vehicles, into the DMZ north of Con Thien on a search 
and destroy mission. The battalion had to fight its way out on the 
DMZ on the second day. 
7-11 August BLT 1/3 of the SLF conducted Operation Beacon Gate southeast of 

Hoi An. ■ 

10-28 August The 1st Marine Division's Task Force X-Ray conducted Operation 

Cochise in Quang Tin Province in conjuction with the ARVN Opera- 
tion Lien Ket-122. 
27 August The 1st Battalion, 7th Marines began Operation Yazoo in Happy 

Valley near Da Nang. There was little contact and the operation ended 
on 5 September. 



CHRONOLOGY 295 

3 September North Vietnamese artillery fire destroyed the large ammunition dump 

at Dong Ha. 

4 September Navy Chaplain Vincent R. Capodanno died earning the Medal of 

Honor while serving with the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines. 
4-15 September Task Force X-Ray's Operation Swift pitted elements of two Marine bat- 
talions against a large and well-equipped force of NVA soldiers nor- 
thwest of Tam Ky. ARVN forces and elements of Task Force Oregon 
fought simultaneous opetations in conjunction with Swift. 
6 October BGen Harry C. Olson relieved BGen James E. Herbold, Jr., as com- 
mander of the Force Logistics Command. 
11-20 October The 1st Marines conducted Operation Medina near Quang Tri. 
20 October The 1st Marines began Operation Osceola. 
24 October The 7th Marines began Operation Knox, which ended 4 November, in 

the Phu Loc-Hai Van area. 
31 October Operation Ardmore, Fremont, and Kingfisher, which began in mid- 
July, ended in northern I Corps. 
1 November Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, on a visit to South Vietnam, 

presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the 3d Marine Division and 
the 7th ARVN Airbotne. 
14 November MajGen Bruno A. Hochmuth died in a helicopter crash near Hue. 

BGen Metzger assumed command of the 3d Marine Division pending 
the arrival of MajGen Tompkins. 
6-17 November The 5th Marines conducted Operation Essex in Quang Nam Province. 
13-30 November The 7th Marines conducted Operation Foster northwest of An Hoa. 
1-31 December The 3d Marine Division continued Operation Scotland, Lancaster, 
Kentucky, Napoleon, Neosho, and Osceola. 
23 December The 7th Marines terminated Operation Citrus. 

31 December As of this date. III MAF units had expended 757,520 man days and 
114,519 equipment hours on the construction of the strong point 
obstacle system, which many Marines referred to as the "McNamara 
Line." Enemy action had destroyed $1,622,348 worth of Marine equip- 
ment being used on the project. 



Appendix D 

Medal of Honor Citations, 1967 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JAMES ANDERSON, JR. 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a 
rifleman, Second Platoon, Company F, Second Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division in Vietnam 
on 28 February 1967. Company F was advancing in dense jungle northwest of Cam Lo in an effort to extract a 
heavily besieged reconnaissance patrol. Private First Class Anderson's platoon was the lead element and had 
advanced only about 200 meters when they were brought under extremely intense enemy small arms and 
automatic weapons fire. The platoon reacted swiftly, getting on line as best they could in the thick terrain, and 
began returning fire. Private First Class Anderson found himself tightly bunched together with the other 
members of the platoon only 20 meters from the enemy positions. As the fire fight continued several of the 
men were wounded by the deadly enemy assault. Suddenly, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the 
Marines and rolled along side Private First Class Anderson's head. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard 
for his own personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as 
it went off. Although several Marines received shrapnel from the grenade, his body absorbed the major force 
of the explosion. In this singularly heroic act, Private First Class Anderson saved his comrades from serious in- 
jury and possible death. His personal heroism, extraordinary valor, and inspirational supreme self-sacrifice 
reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United 
States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



297 



298 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

LANCE CORPORAL JEDH COLBY BARKER 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a machine gunner with Company F, Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division, in the 
Republic of Vietnam on 21 September 1967. During a reconnaissance operation near Con Thien, Corporal 
Barker's squad was suddenly hit by enemy sniper fire. The squad immediately deployed to a combat formation 
and advanced to a strongly fortified enemy position, when it was again struck by small arms and automatic 
weapons fire, sustaining numerous casualties. Although wounded by the initial burst of fire. Corporal Barker 
boldly remained in the open, delivering a devastating volume of accurate fire on the numerically superior 
force. The enemy was intent upon annihilating the small Marine force and, realizing that Corporal Barker was 
a threat to their position directed the preponderance of their fire on his position. He was again wounded, this 
time in the right hand, which prevented him from operating his vitally needed machine gun. Suddenly, and 
without warning, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the few surviving Marines. Unhesitatingly and 
with complete disregard for his own personal safety. Corporal Barker threw himself upon the deadly grenade, 
absorbing with his own body the full and tremendous force of the explosion. In a final act of bravery, he crawl- 
ed to the side of a wounded comrade and administered first aid before succumbing to his grievous wounds. 
His bold initiative, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain 
death undoubtedly saved his comrades from further injury or possible death and reflected great credit upon 
himself, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 299 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

SECOND LIEUTENANT JOHN PAUL BOBO 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Weapons 
Platoon Commander, Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, in Quang Tri Pro- 
vince, Republic of Vietnam, on 30 March 1967. Company I was establishing night ambush sites when the 
command group was attacked by a reinforced North Vietnamese company supported by heavy automatic 
weapons and mortar fire. Lieutenant Bobo immediately organized a hasty defense and moved from position to 
position encouraging the outnumbered Marines despite the murderous enemy fire. Recovering a rocket laun- 
cher from among the friendly casualties, he organized a new launcher team and directed its fire into the enemy 
machine gun positions. When an exploding enemy mortar round severed Lieutenant Bobo's right leg below 
the knee, he refused to be evacuated and insisted upon being placed in a firing position to cover the move- 
ment of the command group to better location. With a web belt around his leg serving as a tourniquet and 
with his leg jammed into the dirt to curtail the bleeding, he remained in this position and delivered 
devastating fire into the ranks of the enemy attempting to overrun the Marines. Lieutenant Bobo was mortally 
wounded while firing his weapon into the mainpoint of the enemy attack but his valiant spirit inspired his 
men to heroic efforts, and his tenacious stand enabled the command group to gain a protective position where 
it repulsed the enemy onslaught. Lieutenant Bobo's superb leadership, dauntless courage, and bold initiative 
reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United 
States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



300 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

LIEUTENANT VINCENT R. C APOD ANNO 
CHAPLAIN CORPS, UNITED STATES NAVY 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepedity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as 
Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), FMF, in connection with opera- 
tions against enemy forces in Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 4 September 1967. In respnse to 
reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, 
Lieutenant Capodanno left the relative safety of the Company Command Post and ran through an open area 
raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic- 
weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving 
medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms 
and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed 
the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield 
as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant Marines. Upon encountering a wounded 
corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately fifteen yards away, 
Lieutenant Capodanno rushed forward in a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. 
At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire. By his heroic 
conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example. Lieutenant Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of 
the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 301 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

SERGEANT RODNEY MAXWELL DAVIS 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as the right guide of the Second Platoon, Company B, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, 
in action against enemy forces in Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 6 September 1967. Elements 
of the Second Platoon were pinned down by a numerically superior force of attacking North Vietnamese Army 
Regulars. Remnants of the platoon were located in a trench line where Sergeant Davis was directing the fire of 
his men in an attempt to repel the enemy attack. Disregarding the enemy hand grenades and high volume of 
small arms and mortar fire, Sergeant Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each 
of them while firing and throwing grenades at the onrushing enemy. When an enemy grenade landed in the 
trench in the midst of his men. Sergeant Davis, realizing the gravity of the situation, and in a final valiant act 
of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing with his own body the full and 
terrific force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost cer- 
tain death, Sergeant Davis saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life, enabled his platoon to hold 
its vital position, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. 
He gallantry gave his life for his country. 



302 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS DOUGLAS EUGENE DICKEY 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing with the Second Platoon, Company C, First Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division in the 
Republic of Vietnam on 26 March 1967. While participating in Operation Beacon Hill 1, the Second Platoon 
was engaged in a fierce battle with the Viet Cong at close range in dense jungle foliage Private First Class 
Dickey had come forward to replace a radio operator who had been wounded in this intense action and was be- 
ing treated by a medical corpsman. Suddenly an enemy grenade landed in the midst of a group of Marines, 
which included the wounded radio operator who was immobilized. Fully realizing the inevitable result of his 
actions. Private First Class Dickey, in a final valiant act, guickly and unhesitatingly threw himself upon the 
deadly grenade, absorbing with his own body the full and complete force of the explosion. Private First Class 
Dickey's personal heroism, extraordinary valor and selfless courage saved a number of his comrades from cer- 
tain injury and possible death at the cost of his own life. His actions reflected great credit upon himself, the 
Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 303 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

SERGEANT PAUL HELLSTROM FOSTER 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as an Artillery Liaison Operations Chief with the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Divi- 
sion, near Con Thien in the Republic of Vietnam. In the early morning hours of 14 October 1967, the Second 
Battalion was occupying a defensive position which protected a bridge on the road leading from Con Thien to 
Cam Lo. Suddenly, the Marines' position came under a heavy volume of mortar and artillery fire, followed by 
an aggressive enemy ground assault. In the ensuing engagement, the hostile force penetrated the perimeter 
and brought a heavy concentration of small arms, automatic weapons, and rocket fire to bear on the Battalion 
Command Post. Although his position in the Fire Support Coordination Center was dangerously exposed to 
enemy fire and he was wounded when an enemy hand grenade exploded near his position. Sergeant Foster 
resolutely continued to direct accurate mortar and artillery fire on the advancing North Vietnamese troops. As 
the attack continued, a hand grenade landed in the midst of Sergeant Foster and his five companions. Realiz- 
ing the danger, he shouted a warning, threw his armored vest over the grenade, and unhesitatingly placed his 
own body over the armored vest. When the grenade exploded, Sergeant Foster absorbed the entire blast with 
his own body and was mortally wounded. His heroic actions undoubtedly saved his comrades from further in- 
jury or possible death. Sergeant Foster's courage, extraordinary heroism, and unfaltering devotion to duty 
reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United 
States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



304 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

CAPTAIN JAMES ALBERT GRAHAM 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Com- 
manding Officer, Company F, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, in the Republic of Viet- 
nam on 2 June 1967. During Operation Union II, the First Battalion, Fifth Marines, consisting of Companies 
A and D, with Captain Graham's company attached, launched an attack against an enemy occupied position, 
with two companies assaulting and one in reserve. Company F, a leading company, was proceeding across a 
clear paddy area one thousand meters wide, attacking toward the assigned objective, when it came under 
heavy fire from mortars and small arms which immediately inflicted a large number of casualties. Hardest hit 
by fire was the second platoon of Company F, which was pinned down in the open paddy area by intense fire 
from two concealed machine guns. Forming an assault unit from members of his small company headquarters, 
Captain Graham bodly led a fierce assault through the second platoon's position, forcing the enemy to aban- 
don the first machine gun position, thereby relieving some of the pressure on his second platoon, and enabl- 
ing evacuation of the wounded to a more secure area. Resolute to silence the second machine gun, which con- 
tinued its devastating fire. Captain Graham's small force stood steadfast in its hard won enclave. Subsequent- 
ly, during the afternoon's fierce fighting, he suffered two minor wounds while personally accounting for a 
estimated fifteen enemy killed. With the enemy position remaining invincible upon each attempt to withdraw 
to friendly lines, and although knowing that he had no chance of survival, he chose to remain with one man 
who could not be moved due to the seriousness of his wounds. The last radio transmission from Captain 
Graham reported that he was being assaulted by a force of twenty-five enemy; he died while protecting 
himself and the wounded man he chose not to abandon. Captain Graham's actions throughout the day were a 
series of heroic achievements. He outstanding courage, superb leadership and indomitable fighting spirit un- 
doubtedly saved the second platoon from annihilation and reflected great credit upon himself, the Marine 
Corps, and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 303 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS GARY WAYNE MARTINI 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On April 
21, 1967, during Operation Union, elements of Company F, conducting offensive operations at Binh Son, en- 
countered a firmly entrenched enemy force and immediately deployed to engage them. The Marines in Private 
Martini's platoon assaulted across an open rice paddy to within twenty meters of the enemy trench line where 
they were suddenly struck by hand grenades, intense small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire. The 
enemy onslaught killed 14 and wounded 18 Marines, pinning the remainder of the platoon down behind a 
low paddy dike. In the face of imminent danger. Private Martini immediately crawled over the dike to a for- 
ward open area within 15 meters of the enemy position where, continuously exposed to the hostile fire, he 
hurled hand grenades, killing several of the enemy. Crawling back through the intense fire, he rejoined his 
platoon which had moved to the relative safety of a trench line. From this position he observed several of his 
wounded comrades laying helpless in the fire-swept paddy. Although he knew that one man had been killed 
attempting to assist the wounded. Private Martini raced through the open area and dragged a comrade back to 
a friendly position. In spite of a serious wound received during this first daring rescue, he again braved the 
unrelenting fury of the enemy fire to aid another companion lying wounded only 20 meters in front of the 
enemy trench line. As he reached the fallen Marine, he received a mortal wound, but disregarding his own 
condition, he began to drag the Marine toward his platoon's position. Observing men from his unit attemp- 
ting to leave the security of their position to aid him, concerned only for their safety, he called to them to re- 
main under cover, and through a final supreme effort, moved his injured comrade to where he could be pulled 
to safety, before he fell, succumbing to his wounds. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private Martini 
unhesitatingly yielded his life to save two of his comrades and insure the safety of the remainder of his pla- 
toon. His outstanding courage, valiant fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty reflected the highest credit 
upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his coun- 
try. 



306 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS MELVIN EARL NEWLIN 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a machine gunner attached to the First Platoon, Company F, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, First 
Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam on 3 and 4 July 1967. Private Newlin, with four other Marines, 
was manning a key position on the perimeter of the Nong Son outpost when the enemy launched a savage and 
well coordinated mortar and infantry assault, seriously wounding him and killing his four comrades. Propping 
himself against his machine gun, he poured a deadly accurate stream of fire into the charging ranks of Viet 
Cong. Though repeatedly hit by small arms fire, he twice repelled enemy attempts to overrun his position. 
During the third attempt, a grenade explosion wounded him again and knocked him to the ground un- 
conscious. The Viet Cong guerrillas, believing him dead, bypassed him and continued their assault on the 
main force. Meanwhile, Private Newlin regained consciousness, crawled back to his weapon, and brought it to 
bear on the rear of the enemy causing havoc and confusion among them. Spotting the enemy attempting to 
bring a captured 106 recoilless weapon to bear on other marine positions, he shifted his fire, inflicting heavy 
casualties on the enemy and preventing them from firing the captured weapon. He then shifted his fire back 
the primary enemy force, causing the enemy to stop their assaults on the marine bunkers and to once again at- 
tack his machine gun position. Valiantly fighting off two more enemy assaults, he firmly held his ground until 
mortally wounded. Private Newlin had singlehandedly broken up and disorganized the entire enemy assault 
force, causing them to lose momentum and delaying them long enough for his fellow marines to organize a 
defense and beat off their secondary attack. His indomitable courage, fortitude, and unwavering devotion to 
duty in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld 
the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 307 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthunQously to 

CORPORAL WILLIAM THOMAS PERKINS, JR. 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a combat photographer attached to Company C, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, in 
the Republic of Vietnam on 12 October 1967. During Operation Medina, a major reconnaissance in force 
southwest of Quang Tri, Company C made heavy combat contact with a numerically superior North Viet- 
namese Army Force estimated at from two to three companies. The focal point of the intense fighting was a 
helicopter landing zone which also serving as the Command Post of Company C. In the course of strong hotile 
attack, an enemy grenade landed in the immediate area occupied by Corporal Perkins and three other 
Marines. Realizing the inherent danger, he shouted the warning, "Incoming Grenade" to his fellow Marines, 
and in a valiant act of heroism, hurled himself upon the grenade absorbing the impact of the explosion with 
his own body, thereby saving the lives of his comrades at the cost of his own. Through his exceptional courage 
and inspiring valor in the face of certain death, Corporal Perkins reflected great credit upon himself and the 
Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life 
for his country. 



308 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

SERGEANT LAWRENCE DAVID PETERS 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a squad leader with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division in the Republic 
of Vietnam on 4 September 1967. During Operation Swift, in the province of Quang Tin, the Marines of the 
second platoon of Company M were struck by intense mortar, machine gun, and small arms fire from an en- 
trenched enemy force. As the company rallied its forces. Sergeant Peters maneuvered his squad in an assault 
on an enemy defended knoll. Disregarding his own saftey, as enemy rounds hit all about him, he stood in the 
open, pointing out enemy positions until he was painfully wounded in the leg. Disregarding his wound he 
moved forward and continued to lead his men. As the enemy fire increased in accuracy and volume, his squad 
lost its momentum and was temporarily pinned down. Exposing himself to devastating enemy fire, he con- 
solidated his position to render more effective fire. While directing the base of fire, he was wounded a second 
time in the face and neck from an exploding mortar round. As the enemy attempted to infiltrate the position 
of an adjacent platoon, Sergeant Peters stood erect in the full view of the enemy firing burst after burst forcing 
them to disclose their camouflaged positions. Sergeant Peters continued firing until he was critically wounded 
by a gunshot wound in his chest. Although unable to walk or stand, Sergeant Peters steadfastly continued to 
direct his squad in spite of two additional wounds, persisted in his efforts to encourage and supervise his men 
until he lost consciousness and succumbed. Inspired by his selfless actions, the squad regained fire superiority 
and once again carried the assault to the enemy. By his outstanding valor, indomitable fighting spirit and 
tenacious determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Sergeant Peters upheld the highest traditions of 
the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 309 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL 
OF HONOR to 

MAJOR STEPHEN WESLEY PLESS 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION: 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a helicopter gunship pilot attached to Marine Observation Squadron Six in action against enemy forces 
near Quang Ngai, Republic of Vietnam, on 19 August 1967. During an escort mission Major (then Captain) 
Pless monitored an emergency call that four American soldiers, stranded on a nearby beach, were being over- 
whelmed by a large Viet Cong force. Major Pless flew to the scene and found 30 to 50 enemy soldiers in the 
open. Some of the enemy were bayoneting and beating the downed Americans. Major Pless displayed excep- 
tional airmanship as he launched a devastating attack against the enemy force, killing or wounding many of 
the enemy and driving the remainder back into a treeline. His rocket and machine gun attacks were made at 
such low levels that the aircraft flew through debris created by explosions from its rockets. Seeing one of the 
wounded soldiers gesture for assistance, he maneuvered his helicopter into a position between the wounded 
men and the enemy, providing a shield which permitted his crew to retrieve the wounded. During the rescue 
the enemy directed intense fire at the helicopter and rushed the aircraft again and again, closing to within a 
few feet before being beaten back. When the wounded men were aboard. Major Pless maneuvered the 
helicopter out to sea. Before it became safely airborne, the overloaded aircraft settled four times into the 
water. Displaying superb airmanship, he finally got the helicopter aloft. Major Pless' extraordinary heroism 
coupled with his outstanding flying skill prevented the annihilation of the tiny force. His courageous actions 
reflect great credit upon himself and uphold the greatest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States 
Naval Service. 



3 10 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

SERGEANT WALTER K. SINGLETON 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the rick of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as Supply Sergeant, Company A, First Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, on 24 March 
1967. Sergeant Singleton's company was conducting combat operations in Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Pro- 
vince, Republic of Vietnam, when the lead platoon received intense small arms, automatic weapons, rocket, 
and mortar fire from a well entrenched enemy force. As the company fought its way forward, the extremely 
heavy enemy fire caused numerous friendly casualties. Sensing the need for early treatment of the wounded. 
Sergeant Singleton quickly moved from his relatively safe position in the rear to the foremost point of the ad- 
vance and made numerous trips through the enemy killing zone to move the injured men out of the danger 
area. Noting that a large part of the enemy fire was coming from a hedgerow, he seized a machine gun and 
assaulted the key enemy location, delivering devastating fire as he advanced. He forced his way through the 
hedgerow directly into the enemy strong point. Although he was mortally wounded, his fearless attack killed 
eight of the enemy and drove the remainder from the hedgerow. Sergeant Singleton's bold actions completely 
disorganized the enemy defense and saved the lives of many of his comrades. His daring initiative, selfless 
devotion to duty and indomitable fighting spirit reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, 
and his performance upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. 



MEDALS OF HONOR 311 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

CORPORAL LARRY EUGENE SMEDLEY 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serv- 
ing as a squad leader with Company D, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in connection 
with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the evening of 20-21 December 1967, Cor- 
poral Smedley led his six-man squad to an ambush site at the mouth of Happy Valley, near Phouc Ninh (2) in 
Quang Nam Province. Later that night, an estimated 100 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army Regulars, 
carrying 122mm rocket launchers and mortars, were observed moving toward Hill 41. Realizing this was a 
significant enemy move to launch an attack on the vital Da Nang complex, Corporal Smedley immediately 
took sound and courageous action to stop the enemy threat. After he radioed for a reaction force, he skillfully 
maneuvered his men to a more advantageous position and led an attack on the numerically superior enemy 
force. A heavy volume of fire from an enemy machine gun positioned on the left flank of the squad inflicted 
several casualties on Corporal Smedley's unit. Simultaneously, an enemy rifle grenade exploded nearby, 
wounding him in the right foot and knocking him to the ground. Corporal Smedley disregarded this serious 
injury and valiantly struggled to his feet, shouting words of encouragement to his men. He fearlessly led a 
charge against the enemy machine gun emplacement, firing his rifle and throwing grenades, until he was 
again struck by enemy fire and knocked to the ground. Gravely wounded and weak from loss of blood, he rose 
and commenced a one-man assault against the enemy position. Although his aggressive and singlehanded at- 
tack resulted in the destruction of the machine gun, he was struck in the chest by enemy fire and fell mortally 
wounded. Corporal Smedley's inspiring and courageous actions, bold initiative, and selfless devotion to duty 
in the face of certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United 
States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 



3 1 2 FIGHTING THE NORTH VIETNAMESE 



The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF 
HONOR posthumously to 

LANCE CORPORAL ROY MITCHELL WHEAT 
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 

for service as set forth in the following 

CITATION 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, while ser- 
ving as a fire team leader with the First Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine 
Division, in the Republic of Vietnam. On 11 August 1967, Corporal Wheat and two other Marines were 
assigned the mission of providing security for a Navy construction battalion crane and crew operating along 
Liberty Road in the vicinity of the Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province. After the Marines had set up 
security positions in a tree line adjacent to the work site. Corporal Wheat reconnoitered the area to the rear of 
their location for the possible presence of guerrillas. He then returned to within ten feet of the friendly posi- 
tion, and here unintentionally triggered a well concealed, bounding type, antiper